China's CCTV Reiterates It Has No Intention of Airing NBA Games

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 12, 2020

In this Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, photo, Brooklyn Nets' Theo Pinson, left, drives against Los Angeles Lakers' Danny Green, right, near a Chinese national flag during a preseason NBA game at the Mercedes Benz Arena in Shanghai, China. When Houston Rocket's general manager Daryl Morey tweeted last week in support of anti-government protests in Hong Kong, everything changed for NBA fans in China. A new chant flooded Chinese sports forums:
Uncredited/Associated Press

Should the 2019-20 NBA season resume, China's state-owned television network will continue to freeze out the league because of Daryl Morey's tweet in support of pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong.

NBA China hired Michael Ma as its chief executive officer Tuesday. His father, Ma Guoli, was a top executive for CCTV Sports, an arm of the country's TV network.

"Michael Ma's hiring led to speculation in China that the connection could help lead to the NBA getting back on the television giant after they've been off the air all season," ESPN's Brian Windhorst wrote.

However, Windhorst pointed to a statement from CCTV in which it said it was "reiterating its consistent stance on national sovereignty."

The fallout from Morey's tweet was swift and far-reaching. The NBA's official partners in China all suspended their deals with the league, and CCTV declined to broadcast any regular-season games.

Rachel Nichols @Rachel__Nichols

The latest from Shanghai - players are getting frustrated, and no one knows if Thursday's Lakers-Nets game is really going to happen. https://t.co/qsH7lCG97x

NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed Chinese government officials also asked for Morey to be fired. Silver issued a statement saying the NBA wasn't going to punish team or league personnel for exercising opinions on political issues:

"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 frayed relations with China have hit the NBA's bank account. Silver told reporters in February the league wasn't going to lose $1 billion in revenue, as had been reported, and that it's "probably less than $400 million, maybe even less than that."

Still, that's a significant amount of money, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further clouded the NBA's financial outlook.

Navigating the pandemic is enough of a headache for Silver and NBA executives. Repairing the league's partnerships in China looms on the horizon as well.