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China Doesn't Air NBA Opening Night Games Amid Daryl Morey Controversy

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistOctober 23, 2019

Hong Kong supporters protest outside Staples Center ahead of the Lakers vs Clippers NBA season opener in Los Angeles on October 22, 2019. - Activists handed out free T-shirts displaying support for the Hong Kong protests after an NBA fan in Northern California raised enough money to pay for more than 10,000 shirts, according to the organizer who goes by the pseudonym
FREDERIC J. BROWN/Getty Images

State television in China did not air NBA opening night games following Daryl Morey's tweet in support of pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong.

ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Dave McMenamin reported that NBA broadcast partner Tencent only showed the game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers—eschewing the New Orleans Pelicans-Toronto Raptors opener.

State television had typically broadcast season-opening NBA games. 

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said China pressured the league to have Morey fired after his Oct. 4 tweet, though this was denied by the Chinese government. The league responded by supporting Morey's right to freedom of expression, and he has not been punished.

Silver has said the league does not plan on pulling out of its relationship with China despite the controversy. He has cited sports as a way to bridge the cultural gap between the two countries.

“My personal belief is that isolationism doesn’t make sense in this highly interconnected world," Silver told Ben Cohen and Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal on Monday. "We have no choice but to engage and to attempt to have better understanding of other cultures and try to work through issues. What better way than through sports?”

Pro-Hong Kong protestors attended the Staples Center in Los Angeles on the league's opening night, some of whom were critical of the Lakers' LeBron James expressing his frustration with Morey. James told reporters Oct. 14 that Morey was "uneducated" about the fallout before making his comments and said he wished the Houston Rockets general manager would have timed his statement better.

James and the Lakers, along with the Brooklyn Nets, were in China during the height of the controversy. Silver defended James' comments Monday on ESPN's Get Up!:

"I think that these players, I mean, take LeBron who has an incredible track record of doing things that have changed people's lives in the United States to be asked to comment on a difficult foreign issue is, I think, again there's free expression and he should say how he feels," Silver said. "But, freedom of speech also means the freedom not to speak. And I've often said to players about issues here at home: If it's something you don't know about and you don't feel comfortable responding, that's okay as well. So, it's been no-win for a lot of those players, so I'm very sympathetic."

State broadcaster China Central Television, which has typically broadcast NBA games, said Silver would face "retribution" for saying the Chinese government requested he fire Morey. 

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