Adam Silver still planning to travel to China despite Chinese TV station's refusal to air NBA preseason games
Silver hopes to meet with Chinese Basketball Association chairman Yao Ming to repair the large rift created from Morey's tweet
The fallout from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's controversial tweet has continued, turning this into a geopolitical nightmare for the NBA. Last week, Morey tweeted, and then deleted, support of the ongoing protests in Hong Kong which are in opposition of controversial legislation that would allow criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China. The reaction in China was swift, from pulled partnership deals, to the Chinese Basketball Association reportedly cancelling exhibition games with the G League affiliates of the Rockets and Dallas Mavericks, plus two games between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets are also in jeopardy of being cancelled.
The latest update comes from a press conference NBA commissioner Adam Silver held in Tokyo prior to a preseason game there between the Rockets and Toronto Raptors. Shortly before the presser began, Chinese state television CCTV said in a statement that it would no longer air the upcoming NBA preseason games later this week in China.
During the news conference, Silver responded by saying, "I understand that there are consequences from that exercise of, in essence, [Morey's] freedom of speech, and we will have to live with those consequences." He also unequivocally said that the league is not apologizing for Morey's comments.
"We are not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression," Silver said. "I regret, again, having communicated directly with many friends in China, that so many people are upset, including millions and millions of our fans. At the end of the day, we come with basketball as an opportunity to sell dreams, sell hopes, to increasingly focus on physical fitness, mental health. To the extent that we are causing disruption in people's lives and that we are causing disharmony, that's something I regret."
Despite the decision from CCTV and possible cancellation of the two Lakers-Nets exhibition games, Silver is still planning to travel to China on Wednesday for those contests, which are set for Oct. 10 and 12. While there, Silver is hopeful to meet with Yao Ming, the current chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association, in order to repair the large rift created from Morey's tweet, and in turn, the league's response.
"I'm hoping together that Yao Ming and I can find accommodation," Silver said. "But he is extremely hot at the moment, and I understand it. There's no question that Daryl's tweet has hit what I would describe as a third-rail issue in China. I think Yao is extremely unsettled. I'm not quite sure he accepts how we are operating our business right now."
CCTV decided to pull the preseason NBA games in China from the airwaves because of a statement Silver released early Tuesday morning ahead of his scheduled press conference in Tokyo, which clarified the NBA's stance on the situation. Silver's statement came after the league's initial response was met with criticism and confusion from American fans and even caught the attention of many politicians, who criticized the league for "prioritizing profits over human rights." In Silver's statement, which can be read in full here, he said:
"It is inevitable that people around the world -- including from America and China -- will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to to adjudicate those differences. However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way."
That is a far stronger position to take than the previous statement the league released, and Silver clearly took notice of all the criticism the NBA has been receiving since then. While Silver hopes to reconcile when he lands in Shanghai, it's likely going to take much more than one short visit to the countryfrom the likes of Morey and James Harden to resolve this dispute.
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