The NBA poser - what price to play in China's court?

Clay Curtis
October 15, 2019

Almost all of the NBA's Chinese sponsors suspended ties with the league after commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement supporting Morey's right to freedom of expression, while apologizing to Chinese who were offended by the content of Morey's message.

LeBron James and the Lakers were in China last week as the controversy unfolded and the Chinese government severed ties with the National Basketball Association. Although Morey quickly apologized and deleted his original tweet, the damage was done.

On Monday, LeBron James responded to the NBA's controversy in China stemming from Daryl Morey's pro-Hong Kong tweet by saying he didn't think Morey was "educated on the situation".

He goes on to say, "So many people could have been harmed, not only financially but physically, emotionally, spiritually", which would well describe the suffering of the Hong Kong people over the past four months.

It all started with just one Tweet.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver further angered China by defending Morey's right to speak out, but the NBA still pressed ahead with its tour, though in a stripped-down form with every scheduled media or public event cancelled. Of course, rather than face the stick from Turkey as Kanter has, they are instead being incentivized by the carrot of Chinese revenue to stay silent about the country's human rights violations and suppression of democracy in Hong Kong. Why don't you go to Hong Kong?

"There are too many smart people on both sides who will find a way to move past this", Dreyer said.

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The backlash in China against Morey's comments has cast a cloud over the NBA's lucrative broadcasting, merchandising and sponsorship interests in the country, where it has legions of fans.

In 2017, after Stephen Curry announced that he would be opposed to the then-NBA champion Warriors celebrating their title at the White House, Trump said that "Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team". Without AD, LeBron will have to carry the load himself and we all know how that worked out for the Lakers the last time.

"Daryl Morey's educational achievements: Has a Computer Science from Northwestern University and an M.B.A. from the MIT", added Ryan Saavedra.

There is arguably no bigger sports star in the world who stands for social activism, be it with Black Lives Matter or opening the I Promise School, which provides education and support for thousands of at-risk kids in his native Akron, Ohio.

There was no immediate response to an email sent late Monday night to Tracey Hughes, the Houston Rockets vice president of media and player relations, seeking a response from Morey to James' comment. I do not believe there was any consideration for the consequences and ramifications of (Morey's) tweet.

"I'm not discussing the substance", he concluded. "Others can talk about that", he wrote.

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