The Los Angeles Lakers' NBA Cares event that was scheduled for Wednesday in Shanghai was canceled as the latest development in the rising tensions between the league and China after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of Hong Kong protesters.
Rachel Nichols of ESPN reported the news, noting the Lakers' event was intended to benefit the Special Olympics.
ESPN reported the Chinese Basketball Association suspended its relationship with the Rockets after Morey said in a since-deleted tweet "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong."
Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta responded to the tweet and stressed the fact that the team is not a political organization:
Morey attempted to clarify what he meant when he tweeted again on Sunday:
"I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.
"I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention. My tweets are my own and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA."
James Harden apologized for the general manager's initial tweet and told reporters, "We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there. For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love."
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement on behalf of the league that addressed the issue and touched on the importance of the NBA's presence in China while recognizing different political systems can lead to different beliefs.
Shams Charania @ShamsCharania
Adam Silver has released statement on league’s relationship status with China, reading in part: “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.” https://t.co/A43BOAdG57
It notably said the league will not regulate what players, owners and employees say about the issue:
"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 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."
The controversy is swirling as the Rockets are in Japan to face the Toronto Raptors for two preseason games.
Toronto won Tuesday's matchup and will attempt to do the same in Thursday's rematch.
As for the Nets and Lakers, Dave McMenamin of ESPN reported the two teams will address the media on Wednesday in Shanghai. He also noted in addition to the cancelation of the two NBA Cares events, multiple Chinese celebrities and corporate sponsors have pulled out of scheduled appearances for the pair of preseason games between the teams.
The Lakers and Nets are scheduled to face each other on Thursday and Saturday in China.