China Punishes NBA As Crisis Over Democracy Tweet Deepens

China Punishes NBA As Crisis Over Democracy Tweet Deepens

An anodyne tweet expressing support for Hong Kong protesters has triggered a crisis between the National Basketball Association and China, imperiling billions of dollars in business for the US sports league.

A single tweet by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong unleashed massive retaliation from China that put the team and the entire National Basketball Association on notice.

Early this week, Commissioner Adam Silver, in Tokyo for the Rockets preseason games with the Raptors, defended the league's policy and Morey without supporting his words or exactly apologizing either. Articles appear on for a limited time.

Chinese were offended by Morey's tweet, charging that it was insensitive to the country's history of colonial subjugation, its fears of division and weakness, and thus hurt the feelings of the 1.4 billion Chinese people.

And because China, mainland China in particular, is very, very sensitive about unification of places like Taiwan and Hong Kong, any move to threaten their sovereignty is taken extremely seriously.

"Fans, sponsors, websites and broadcasters can shun one team, but they cannot and will not shun an entire league", he wrote.

Silver is set to meet with Yao Ming, the former Rocket and head of the Chinese Basketball Association, who Silver described as "hot" over Morey's tweet. And it bluntly declared that any speech challenging China's "social stability" doesn't fall within the realm of freedom of speech. I'm thrilled with what he said.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said it will no longer air the two preseason games.

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"We're strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver's claim to support Morey's right to freedom of expression".

"But if those are the consequences of us adhering to our values, I still feel it's very, very important to adhere to those values", Silver said.

Qu Wei, 26, wore a Lakers superstar LeBron James jersey as she waited with about 50 other fans hoping for a glimpse of players at a press event in Shanghai. While some NBA coaches choose to stay silent on the NBA-China issue, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich - one never afraid to voice his opinion on political issues - gave his unwavering support to NBA commissioner Adam Silver amid the escalating rift between the NBA and China.

While Morey later deleted the post, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta had already seen the tweet and responded to the backlash, with a note distancing the franchise from the post.

The protests were sparked by a proposed extradition law that would have allowed suspects to be sent to China to face trial.

Wachs said he lived in Hong Kong for two years and supported the pro-democracy activists who've been protesting for months in Hong Kong. China's obviously sending a message to the league that any further pro-HK statements - by anyone - will risk a total rupture of the NBA's relationship with China.

But Silver said the league "will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues". The NBA has frequently encouraged its athletes to speak about political issues like police violence in the USA and has been met with harsh criticism for seemingly censoring those who speak out against police violence and human rights in China.

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