- Title: China TV drops NBA exhibition games, escalating pressure amid tweet uproar
- Date: 8th October 2019
- Summary: TOKYO, JAPAN (OCTOBER 8, 2019) (REUTERS) NBA COMMISSIONER ADAM SILVER WALKS OUT TO PODIUM WHITE FLASH (SOUNDBITE) (English) ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER, SAYING: "We are not apologising for Daryl (Morey) exercising his freedom of expression. I regret, again, having communicated directly with many friends in China that so many people are upset including millions and millions of our fans." WHITE FLASH (SOUNDBITE) (English) ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER, SAYING: "Essentially what I've said in that statement of the long held values of the NBA are to support freedom of expression, and certainly freedoms of expression by the NBA community, and in this case Daryl Morey as the General Manager of the Houston Rockets enjoys that right as one of our employees. What I also try to suggest is I understand that there are consequences from that exercise of in essence his freedom of speech, and we will have to live with those consequences. It's my hope that for our Chinese fans, and our partners in China, they will see those remarks in the context of now a three decade, if not longer, relationship." WHITE FLASH (SOUNDBITE) (English) ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER, SAYING: "As a league we are not willing to compromise those values and again I'm sympathetic to our interests here and to our partners who are upset. I don't think it's inconsistent on one hand to be sympathetic with them and at the same time stand by our principals." WHITE FLASH (SOUNDBITE) (English) ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER, SAYING: "Of course I would like people associated with the NBA to be sensitive about other people's cultures, I think saying that by no means suggests that we're going to regulate their speech. But I think that's appropriate as a business that operates globally." WHITE FLASH (SOUNDBITE) (English) ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER, SAYING: "Part of the reason I issued the statement I did is because this afternoon CCTV announced that because of my remarks supporting Daryl Morey's freedom of expression, not the substance of his statement but his freedom of expression, they were not going to air the (Los Angeles) Lakers, (Brooklyn) Nets pre-season games that are scheduled for later this week. "Again it's not something we expected to happen, I think it's unfortunate, but if that's the consequences of us adhering to our values we still feel it's critically important we adhere to those values." WHITE FLASH (SOUNDBITE) (English) ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER, SAYING: "Again I accept that we have a difference of opinion. I also think that as part of our core values tolerance is one of those as well. I think tolerance for different society's approaches, tolerance for different points of view and the ability to listen. I don't come here, either as the Commissioner of the NBA or as an American, certainly to tell others how they should run their governments. At the end of the day though I am an American and there are these values that are deeply rooted in the DNA of the NBA." WHITE FLASH (SOUNDBITE) (English) ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER, SAYING: "I'm hoping that together Yao Ming and I can find an accommodation, but he is extremely hot at the moment and I understand it." SILVER LEAVING NEWS CONFERENCE
- Embargoed: 22nd October 2019 11:41
- Keywords: Basketball Silver China Hong Kong NBA Support commissioner
- Location: TOKYO, JAPAN
- City: TOKYO, JAPAN
- Country: Japan
- Topics: Basketball,Sport
- Reuters ID: LVA001B08LR27
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Chinese state television said on Tuesday (October 8) it would not air NBA exhibition games played in the country this week, heaping pressure on the U.S. basketball league after a tweet by a Houston Rockets executive backing protests in Hong Kong.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey apologised on Monday for any hurt caused by the tweet, which he quickly deleted over the weekend.
But China's government, fans and the team's partners have not been assuaged, resulting in loss of sponsors and broadcasts in the world's second-largest economy and an important National Basketball Association (NBA) market.
"We strongly oppose Silver's support of Morey on the basis of freedom of speech and we think any comments that challenge a country's sovereignty and social stability is not within the scope of freedom of speech," CCTV said Tuesday in a statement in Chinese, adding that it would review its relationship with the NBA.
The NBA issued a statement saying it regretted Morey's remarks, drawing criticism from U.S. lawmakers.
But commissioner Adam Silver said at a press conference on Tuesday that it was not up to the NBA to regulate what players, employees and team owners said.
Months of anti-government protests in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong have angered Beijing, which has accused Western governments of stirring up anti-China sentiment. China rejects outside intervention in Hong Kong as interference.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang referred to criticism of Morey's comment by the Chinese Basketball Association, which he said made China's position "very clear".
The NBA's regular season, to which CCTV owns exclusive Chinese broadcast rights, begins this month.
Tech giant Tencent Holdings has exclusive internet streaming rights in China, which media reports have said are worth about $1.58 billion. It has said it would temporarily stop showing Rockets games.
The decision heaps pressure on the league, which faces criticism on multiple fronts about its handling of the controversy. Its apology on Sunday disappointed some who see the league as the most progressive of the U.S. sports organizations, while Silver's support for Morey's right to speak his mind has left the league vulnerable in China.
The league has worked for years to cultivate the Chinese market and regularly plays exhibition games there. Its top stars, including Rockets guard James Harden, frequently visit to meet fans and take part in promotions with sponsors.
Tencent said in July that 490 million Chinese fans watched NBA programming on its platforms last season, up threefold since the 2014-2015 season.
Silver said the league's stance was firm, that members of the NBA community were free to express themselves and that the league backed their right to do so.
A pre-season game between the Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers is set for Thursday in Shanghai, with a rematch scheduled for Saturday in Shenzhen. However, organisers abruptly cancelled a Tuesday media event without explanation.
Several Chinese celebrities also announced they would not attend an NBA-organised "fans' night" on Wednesday.
(Production: Andy Ragg)
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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