NBA players and teams have left China, but the back-and-forth between the two sides has not stopped. On Saturday, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV issued a warning to commissioner Adam Silver.
According to the South China Morning Post, in a commentary, CCTV said Silver could face “retribution” for defaming China and supporting Daryl Morey, the Houston Rockets general manager who tweeted support for the Hong Kong protests and set off an international controversy between the NBA and China.
Earlier in the week, Silver had revealed at the Time 100 Health Summit in New York that China had asked the NBA to fire Morey over the tweet, which read “Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong.” The commissioner said that there was “no chance that’s happening.”
He added: “There’s no chance we’ll even discipline him.”
The Chinese government, through a spokesperson, denied that it made the request.
Silver is now clear on NBA’s position
Silver has clarified the NBA’s position in recent public statements after his initial comments ignited criticism in the United States. The league’s first statement called Morey’s tweet “inappropriate” and said the NBA was “extremely disappointed.”
Despite admitting that the financial losses as a result of Morey’s comments have already been “substantial” and “may continue to be fairly dramatic,” Silver said that he is willing to deal with the consequences and protect Morey’s freedom of expression.
This, no doubt, has infuriated China. In the editorial, CCTV claimed Silver “fabricated lies out of nothing and has sought to paint China as unforgiving” in order to “please some American politicians.” After Silver’s initial statement, politicians on both sides of the aisle criticized the league:
Bipartisan group of lawmakers to send letter to NBA commissioner on China, from Reps. Tom Malinowksi, Mike Gallagher, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jim Banks, and Sens. Ben Sasse, Ron Wyden, Tom Cotton, and Ted Cruz
— Haley Byrd (@byrdinator) October 9, 2019
The CCTV editorial continued:
Silver has spared no effort to portray himself as a fighter for free speech and used freedom of speech as an excuse to cover for Morey, who voiced his support for the violent actors in Hong Kong. This has crossed the bottom line of the Chinese people.
Tension is far from over
While this appears like a bunch of hot air from the mouthpiece of the Chinese government, it is an indication that the two sides are far from reconciling. China stopped broadcasting preseason games and many sponsors have pulled out. Some games are back on the airwaves, but it might be awhile before the tension dies down.
At the Brooklyn Nets preseason game on Friday at the Barclays Center, hundreds of protestors filled the stands donning “Stand With Hong Kong” shirts. NBA players, coaches and executives have strayed from stating their opinions on the issue as to not fan the flames, with LeBron James’ panned remarks earlier in the week as an example.
Ironically, it was James’ criticism of Morey that created an uproar in the United States and led to people in Hong Kong burning his jersey.
Granted, issues surrounding a sports league that is worth billions of dollars with or without business in China seems paltry compared to what the Hong Kong protestors are fighting for. But as long as China keeps pushing back on the NBA over this issue, Adam Silver has a rocky road ahead.
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