NBA Commissioner defends free speech amidst controversies over tweet supporting Hong Kong protests

In October 2019, Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, expressed his support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong on Twitter. After Morey’s tweet was published, NBA said as an initial response in a statement that it recognized that Morey’s views "have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable." However, Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner, said that “Daryl Morey is supported in terms of his ability to exercise his freedom of expression”.

The backlash over Morey’s tweet continued to grow. China’s CCTV had halted the broadcasts of NBA’s preseason matches in China. Tencent, NBA’s exclusive digital partner in China, said it would suspend live streaming for two NBA preseason games in China. Corporate partners in China have also suspended relations with the league.

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21 October 2019

China reportedly asks Daryl Morey to be fired, but NBA Commissioner says "no chance that's happening"

Author: NBC News

“China asked NBA to fire Houston's Morey, commissioner says: We said 'no chance'”, 18 Oct 2019

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said… that the fallout following a tweet from a Houston Rockets official who backed the Hong Kong democracy protests has already cost the league substantial financial losses in China…

The controversy began… after Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for the pro-democracy demonstrators in a since-deleted post that included an image captioned: "Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong."

In the aftermath of Morey's tweet, China did not broadcast or stream the two preseason games that were held in the country between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets while the NBA canceled many player appearances.

Corporate partners in the country have also scrapped or suspended relations with the league…

"Our games are not back on the air in China as we speak," Silver said in his first public appearance since returning from his recent trip to Asia.

Silver also said the Chinese government has asked that Morey, who was named the NBA's executive of the year in 2018, be fired for the tweet.

"We said there's no chance that's happening," said Silver, who has previously stated the league would not apologize for Morey expressing his freedom of expression. "There’s no chance we’ll even discipline him."

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang denied that Beijing made such a demand against Morey, however.

"We especially went to the relevant departments to check on this claim," Geng told reporters during the ministry's daily briefing in the Chinese capital… "The Chinese government has never made this kind of request."

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9 October 2019

NBA Commissioner defends freedom of expression while China halts broadcast of preseason games

Author: CNN Business

"China won't show NBA preseason games as backlash over Hong Kong tweet grows", 8 Oct 2019

China won't broadcast or stream NBA preseason games held in the country. It's a dramatic escalation of a political firestorm that began when the general manager of the Houston Rockets expressed support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

CCTV's sports channel said… that it had "decided to immediately halt" broadcasts of the basketball league's preseason matches in China after it expressed its "strong dissatisfaction" over NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's response to Daryl Morey's tweet. The broadcaster is also reviewing its wider relationship with the NBA.

Tencent (TCEHY), the NBA's exclusive digital partner in China, also said it would suspend live streaming for two NBA preseason games in China.

The controversy began when Morey tweeted his support for the demonstrations in Hong Kong… His post, which has since been deleted, included an image that read, "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong."…

Those remarks led several Chinese businesses to suspend ties with the Rockets… That backlash triggered an initial response from the NBA… In a statement, the organization said that it recognized that Morey's views "have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable."

… Silver himself waded into the fray. He reportedly spoke to Kyodo News, a local news outlet in Japan, and issued a response to the blowback.

"I have read some of the media suggesting that we are not supporting Daryl Morey, but in fact we have," Silver told Kyodo News. "I think as a values-based organization that I want to make it clear ... that Daryl Morey is supported in terms of his ability to exercise his freedom of expression."

In its decision… to halt NBA broadcasts, CCTV pointed to "the response of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in Japan."

"We express our strong dissatisfaction and opposition to Silver's stated support of Morey's right to free speech…" the network said. "We will also immediately examine all other cooperation and exchanges with the NBA."…

Silver responded to CCTV's decision at a press conference in Japan, calling it "unfortunate."

"It's not something we expected to happen," Silver told reporters. "But if that's the consequence of us adhering to our values, we still feel it's critically important to adhere to those values."…

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