Chinese media is slamming NBA over Hong Kong comments

Sport, world politics and the mess in Hong Kong. Put the three together and you have an explosive mix. The NBA’s entire future as it expands in China is now under a serious cloud.

Chinese state media is slamming the NBA for their “about-face” after the basketball association said it would not apologise for a tweet by the Houston Rockets General Manager supporting pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

The US league is drawing fire from Chinese broadcasters, sponsors and social media after Daryl Morey tweeted a message Friday saying “Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”

After the NBA called Morey’s tweet “inappropriate” in a statement on the Chinese Weibo social media , league commissioner Adam Silver insisted at a press conference in Tokyo yesterday that the league would not apologise and would “support freedom of expression”.

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In an editorial, the state-run China Daily accused the NBA of a U-turn and said Silver’s remarks showed the league’s earlier “honey-mouthed” statements had been “nothing but an attempt to prevent the hemorrhaging of profits made in China.”

It added that “Silver’s about face, which will definitely give a shot to the arms of the rioters in Hong Kong, shows his organisation is willing to be another handy tool for US interference in the special administrative region.”

State broadcaster CCTV and Chinese internet company Tencent both suspended broadcasts of Rockets games and two preseason NBA games in China.

Beijing has often accused foreign forces of fuelling the unrest in Hong Kong.

An editorial in the nationalistic Global Times also blasted the NBA for bowing to “political correctness in the US”, saying there was now “little room for reconciliation” as the issue had escalated into a clash of values between China and the US.

“Silver will only offend more people no matter what he tries to say.”

The NBA commissioner said he hoped to discuss the situation with Chinese officials in Shanghai, where the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers are set to play an exhibition game tomorrow. But a day after the NBA cancelled a Nets publicity event in the city, NBA representatives told AFP that it had scrapped a similar public event involving the Lakers today.

Separate training sessions by the teams, that media had been invited to, were also abruptly declared closed.

Crews at Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz arena, where the Nets and Lakers were to tip-off, were seen this morning removing the logos of the NBA, Nets, Lakers, and corporate sponsors from lamp-posts and walls in the area. And speculation is growing in the US that the games themselves – another is to be held in the southern city of Shenzhen on Saturday – could be cancelled.

The NBA has built a lucrative Chinese fanbase in recent years thanks in part to the popularity of former Rockets centre Yao Ming.

The Chinese Basketball Association, which Yao now heads, has also cut off ties with the Rockets.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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