By Tenzin Dharpo
NBA Hall of famer and Chinese basketball Association cut ties with the Rockets after NBA said it would not apologize for a tweet supporting Hong Kong. File photo
DHARAMSHALA, Oct. 9: The most watched basketball league in the world, National Basketball Association (NBA) has stood tall after one of the team’s general manager tweeted in support of Hong Kong protests, riling China and prompting its state television to stop broadcast of the NBA games in the country.
China has suspended broadcast of pre-season games of the NBA due to be shown later this week, after the league’s commissioner Adam Silver said the league is not apologising for Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's tweet last Friday that supported anti-government protesters in Hong Kong. Morey has since deleted the tweet.
"Daryl Morey, as general manager of the Houston Rockets, enjoys that right as one of our employees. What I also tried to suggest is that I understand there are consequences from his freedom of speech and we will have to live with those consequences,” Silver said on Tuesday at a press conference prior to the preseason game between the Rockets and NBA champion Toronto Raptors in Tokyo.
Chinese state television CCTV objected to the NBA Commissioner’s statement. "We're strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver's claim to support Morey's right to freedom of expression. We believe that any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability are not within the scope of freedom of speech," CCTV said in a statement.
The Houston Rockets have been virtually blacklisted in China as former NBA star and Hall of Famer Yao Ming also expressed his dissatisfaction over the issue , cutting ties with the Rockets where he had spent best part of his career. Ming is the president of the Chinese Basketball Association.
Commercially, the team is also set to lose millions as NBA's streaming partner Tencent with $1.5 billion contract with the league over the next five seasons saying it would not show Rockets' games.
Silver who reached Shanghai today said he will meet with officials and some of the league's business partners there in an effort to mend relations between the league and the country that is over three decades old.
Basketball has a huge following in China with over 300 million active players of the game and having crossed the 1 billion viewer back in 2011-12 season according to a study by University of Pennsylvania.