Chinese state television said Tuesday it will not air the NBA exhibition games played domestically this week, increasing pressure on the American basketball league following an announcement by a Houston Rockets executive backing protests in Hong Kong.
Missile general manager Daryl Morey apologized Monday for any injuries caused by the tweet, which he quickly deleted over the weekend.
Comments Any comment that challenged a country’s sovereignty and social stability was not “within the realm of freedom of speech,” CCTV said, adding that it was looking at its relationship with the NBA.
Months of anti-government protests in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong have angered Beijing, which has accused Western governments of fomenting anti-China sentiment. China rejects foreign intervention in Hong Kong as intervention.
Chinese smartphone maker Vivo, a major sponsor of exhibition games in China, announced on Tuesday that it was suspending all ties with the NBA, underscoring the reaction force in the country.
Chinese sportswear manufacturer ANTA Sports Products Ltd, which has endorsement contracts with several NBA players, including Golden State Warriors defender Klay Thompson and Boston Celtics lawyer Gordon Hayward, also said Tuesday that was stopping the contract renewal negotiations with the league.
FROM FIRE N H SHORT
The NBA had earlier issued a statement saying it regretted Morey’s words, drawing criticism from US lawmakers.
But Silver, in Japan for an exhibition game, defended Morey’s right to express his opinions.
“It is inevitable that people around the world – including America and China” will have different perspectives on different issues, “Silver said in a statement.” It is not the NBA’s role to judge those changes. ”
Silver later said at a news conference in Japan, where he was attending an exhibition game, that the NBA was not apologizing to Morey “for expressing his freedom of expression.”
“I’m sorry, after communicating directly with many friends in China, that so many people are upset, including millions and millions of our fans,” Silver said.
The league has worked for years to cultivate the Chinese market and regularly plays exhibition games there. Its top stars, including Rocket Guards James Harden, visit frequently to meet fans and participate in sponsored promotions.
“As a league we are not willing to compromise those values,” Silver said, referring to freedom of expression.
“I am sympathetic to our interests here and our upset partners. I do not think it is against one side to be sympathetic to them and at the same time stand by our principles.”
The decision heightens pressure on the league, which faces criticism on numerous fronts over its handling of the controversy.
Her apology Sunday had disappointed some who see the league as the most progressive of American sports organizations. Silver has in the past prompted players to talk about disturbing issues at home, including questions of police brutality and gun violence.
Tencent said in July that 490 million Chinese fans watched NBA programming on its platforms last season, up to triple the 2014-2015 season.
A pre-season game between the Nets and Los Angeles Lakers is set for Thursday in Shanghai, with a game scheduled for Saturday in Shenzhen. However, organizers unexpectedly canceled a Tuesday media event without explanation.
Some Chinese celebrities announced they will not be attending the NBA’s “fan night” on Wednesday./Investing.com