Chinese TV cancels NBA coverage, rift grows

NBA commissioner Adam Silver regrets the outcome, but said he continues to support the right of freedom of expression exercised by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.

Chinese state TV broadcaster CCTV announced Tuesday it would not televise NBA games played this week involving the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets. Chinese smartphone maker Vivo, a sponsor of the Lakers-Nets game, led multiple Chinese companies suspending business with the NBA on Tuesday over Morey’s comments and the NBA’s support of Morey.

CCTV pointed directly to Silver when announcing it pulled the plug on this week’s broadcasts.

“We’re strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver’s claim to support Morey’s right to freedom of expression,” the network said in a statement. “We believe that any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability are not within the scope of freedom of speech.”

Morey sparked a firestorm by posting a comment via Twitter last week: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”

On Monday, Silver said he supported Morey’s rights as an NBA employee. Though Morey later deleted the post and tweeted an apology after Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta publicly clarified the team does not take political positions, the damage cannot yet be measured.

Silver said in Japan that he plans to be in Shanghai to meet with Chinese officials on Wednesday.

“I’m sympathetic to our interests here and our partners that are upset,” Silver said. “I don’t think it’s inconsistent on one hand to be sympathetic to them and at the same time stand by our principles. But if those are the consequences of us adhering to our values, I still feel it’s very, very important to adhere to those values.”

Some U.S. lawmakers also criticized Silver and called for him to take action. But Silver said he will not adjudicate differences of opinion.

“This is about far more than growing our business. … Values of equality, respect and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA — and will continue to do so,” Silver said. “As an American-based basketball league operating globally, among our greatest contributions are these values of the game.”

–Field Level Media