Alykhan Bijani: James Harden and Russell Westbrook were…

More on Morey's Hong Kong Tweet

Saturday's game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets is still scheduled to be played to conclude the 2019 China Games. However, the teams involved won't be talking about it. The Nets' 114-111 victory over the Lakers in Shanghai on Thursday was able to happen only with a stipulation by the Chinese government mandating that no media availability of any kind be held at the game and that NBA commissioner Adam Silver cancel his pregame news conference.
"We have decided not to hold media availability for our teams for the remainder of our trip in China," the NBA announced in a statement Friday. "They have been placed into a complicated and unprecedented situation while abroad and we believe it would be unfair to ask them to address these matters in real time."
Both the Nets and Lakers are free to conduct their own media availability, according to a league spokesman. However, this media policy was already discussed with players and representatives from the NBA players' association, according to a league source, so the motivation to operate outside of the league's guidelines is negligible.
An NBA spokesman later apologized for how the situation was handled in a statement: "During today's Houston Rockets media availability, a team representative inappropriately interjected to prevent CNN's Christina Macfarlane from receiving an answer to her question. We've apologized to Ms. Macfarlane as this was inconsistent with how the NBA conducts media events."
Alykhan Bijani: Coach D’Antoni was asked about the situation with the NBA and China. Here is the full exchange. “Hey, I coach basketball. I’m not a diplomat or around the world. I coach basketball.” #Rockets
NBA players have been unusually quiet on China since the nation started severing ties with the league. That may stem from the private advice they are getting from sports agents to tread lightly — or avoid discussing it entirely — if they are asked about the uproar over Hong Kong. “What I told my guys is, ‘Don’t even talk about it,’” said one sports agent, who asked not to be identified because of the politically sensitive nature of the issue. “I think it’s a fine line, and when you’re walking that fine line, it’s best to not even play around with it.”
One Western Conference executive, who asked not to be identified because of the politically sensitive nature of the issue, said he also supported Morey’s right to free speech. But he didn’t think it was Morey’s place to take a public stand on the matter, saying the Houston general manager should have been aware of the consequences. “There is a difference between freedom to speak and license to speak,” the executive said in an interview. “Just because you can say it doesn’t mean you should say it.”
Adrian Wojnarowski, the preeminent NBA reporter for ESPN, has not publicly commented on the enormous story about Daryl Morey's tweet in support of Hong Kong protestors and subsequent tempest. However, he 'liked' Morey's tweet before it got deleted, and hordes of accounts with a combination of support for the Chinese government and under 10 followers began attacking him over the weekend:
Now, the Chinese government appears to be reassessing its campaign against the N.B.A. and dialing down the clamor. The government is already in a bruising trade war with the United States, and a backlash against China could hurt its image in the sporting world ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics near Beijing. The dispute with the N.B.A. was also quickly politicizing an audience of sports fans who would not normally focus on issues like the protests in Hong Kong. Editors at state news outlets have told reporters to avoid emphasizing the N.B.A. issue for fear that it might become overheated, according to interviews with three journalists on Thursday.
Jonathan Feigen: Harden and Westbrook were asked if they still feel free to speak out on political and social issues. A spokesperson off stage said they would only answer basketball questions.
At least five NBA teams are having their salary cap personnel plan for a scenario in which the cap for the 2020-21 season could drop between 10 and 15 percent due to the current situation between the NBA and China, league sources told Yahoo Sports. This is part of the teams’ regular seasonal planning, but "it's like the cap spike, but opposite,” a league source told Yahoo Sports. “After all the money everyone spent last summer, this would have a major impact on all of us."
One team’s cap expert told Yahoo Sports: “I haven’t really been in this spot before. The cap has only gone up in recent years. It’s really different. I have to wonder if the league would be pressed to consider some measures to not drop the cap down so far from where we are today at $109 [million]. Otherwise, a bunch of us are over the tax. It’d be nice to know now, because that changes how we approach trades and everything else throughout the season.”
Albert Nahmad: NBA generated nearly $8 billion in revenues last season, of which about 30% came from ESPN/ABC and TNT TV rights deals. Another large % came from gate receipts. Then local TV rights. I’d guess that revenues from China are nine figures, but I don’t know what those figures are.
Albert Nahmad: NBA initially projected a $117M salary cap for 2020-21 in June, which included a $35M salary and benefits shortfall that increased it by $1M. They then lowered the projection to $116M in September, which (while I can’t be sure) I suspect was due to wiping away the shortfall.
Albert Nahmad: Assuming there is no shortfall projected into the $116M salary cap projection for 2020-21, every $100M drop in revenue would lower the cap by about $1.5M. In my personal projections, once you hit $500M, drop compounds to about $3.2M for every addt’l $100M due to salary overages.
Bill Oram: An unprecedented development from Shanghai: There will be no media availability of any kind during or after today's game between the Lakers and Brooklyn Nets. This is the latest mandate from the Chinese government in wake of Daryl Morey's tweet supporting Hong Kong.
But those in support of Hong Kong were able to make their point. "We clearly understand Chinese influence on major American industries or corporations or people," Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation executive director Marion Smith told USA TODAY Sports. "But at the same time, we think it’s the long-term and medium-term interest of America and the NBA for us to resist all efforts of the Chinese communist party to use a sport to advance propaganda."
It was a sparse crowd at the game — no more than a few thousand fans — but some fans wore the t-shirts. One fan at the end of the Chinese national anthem yelled "Free Hong Kong" and then left the arena on his own. He was not escorted out, according to Wizards spokesperson Scott Hall. Jon Schweppe, who was wearing a pro-Hong Kong shirt, confirmed this account. A few other fans had "Free Hong Kong" signs, and Schweppe, wearing one of those t-shirts, held a sign that read "Google Uyghurs," a reference to Muslims who are under mass internment in China.
Brian Lewis: The silence is deafening at the Ritz Carlton, being used as a base in Shanghai by the #Nets and #Lakers. Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson went by without comment, as did players from both Brooklyn and L.A. as well as league executives. The situation in China is tense & tenuous.
B/R Kicks: Anta weighs in following Daryl Morey’s tweet.
Dennis Rodman: @NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, I know a thing or two about diplomacy between other countries. Book me a flight to Shanghai with you! #AmbassadorRodman #Peacemaker #BasketballDiplomacy
A man in China has been arrested after he threatened to burn the national flag on social media while wearing a Houston Rockets jersey, according to reports. Howard Wang, 25, was taken into custody Tuesday and is accused of publishing "insults directed against the national flag" on Weibo, which is China's version of Twitter, on Sunday, according to CNN, which cited authorities. The arrest comes amid a week of fractured relations between the NBA and China, due to a tweet from Rockets general manager Daryl Morey that expressed support for human rights protests in Hong Kong, which are considered anti-government. (Morey later deleted the tweet and offered an apology).
Rachel Nichols: All over Shanghai, they’re taking down banners and signs for the NBA in general, and for Thursday’s Lakers-Nets game specifically. Game is still officially “on” of now. Lots of shrugged shoulders over whether it will actually happen.
Nets Daily: With 25 hours before game time, it’s looking unlikely the Nets and Lakers will play either of their preseason games in China. The question now is who pulls the plug: the NBA or China.
Tim Reynolds: NBA statement on Lakers-Nets media sessions, that were to happen in Shanghai right about now: "Given the fluidity of the situation, today’s media availability has been postponed.”
The statement also said CCTV will not broadcast NBA preseason games and will investigate their NBA partnerships. The NBA has no plans to cancel their games, but it might not be up to them. With all this unfolding, the fallout awaited the Lakers as they landed from a 13-hour flight, cut off from the rest of the world.
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said it will no longer air the two preseason games. CCTV is also reviewing all of its cooperation and exchanges involving the NBA, it said in a statement posted to CCTV Sports' official social media account. The broadcaster indicated the decision was prompted by earlier remarks Silver made in Japan. "We're strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver's claim to support Morey's right to freedom of expression," the statement read. "We believe that any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability are not within the scope of freedom of speech."
The NBA Cares event in Shanghai involving the Los Angeles Lakers was canceled Wednesday just hours before it was scheduled to begin, adding to the fallout from a recent tweet by Rockets GM Daryl Morey that showed support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong. The NBA would only say that calling off the event, which was supposed to benefit the Special Olympics, was not its decision.
Chris Paul, the president of the NBA's players' association, said he isn't very well informed about the league's growing friction with its business partners in China in part because of his focus on the Oklahoma City Thunder's training camp. "I don't know but so much about it right now," Paul said of the situation, which began with a tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of the anti-government protesters in Hong Kong. "I'll try to find out what's going on."
Tomer Azarly: More from Doc Rivers on preaching importance voting to #Clippers/Adam Silver’s statement earlier today - “I did tell them this. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom of consequences. Like you can have freedom of speech, but there may be consequences for what you say.”
Sam Wachs, 33, says Wells Fargo Center security ejected him and his wife from the exhibition game after he brought in several pro-Hong Kong signs and yelled “Free Hong Kong.” Wachs was sitting in section 124 — right behind the Guangzhou bench — when he and his wife held up two signs: one reading “Free Hong Kong” and the other reading “Free HK.”
Seven hundred to 800 visitors had come daily during last week’s national holidays, said the employee, who didn’t give his name because he wasn’t authorized to speak with media. On Tuesday, there were less than 10. “It’s because of that ‘free speech’ incident,” he said, pulling out his phone to scroll through trending topics on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform similar to Twitter. Several were about state media and companies cutting ties with the NBA. “This doesn’t happen just because one person was upset. Many people must be following if something trends,” he said. Whether the NBA would come back into China’s good graces was uncertain, he said. “But at the very least, Morey will have to resign. That’s for sure.”
In discussions I’ve had over the past few days with a number of well-placed observers, who are familiar with both the Chinese landscape and N.B.A. dealings, there are growing fears that government officials will cancel the two games. Various sponsors, media outlets and the Chinese Basketball Association itself — led by the former Rockets great Yao Ming — have already vowed to have nothing to do with the Rockets for the foreseeable future.
Gregg Popovich: "I guess I can go at it this way. Adam is a very progressive leader. We all remember how he handled the situation with the former owner of the Clippers. It made everybody proud because it was the right thing to do. A couple of years ago, I was walking the streets in New York City during the gay pride parade. I turned around and here comes a float, and Adam is standing on a float with a big sign in support of LGBTQ. And I felt great again, just like I did with the Clipper deal.”
Gregg Popovich: "He came out strongly for freedom of speech (today). I felt great again. He's been a heck of a leader in that respect and very courageous. Then you compare it to what we've had to live through the past three years, it's a big difference. A big gap there, leadership-wise and courage-wise. It wasn't easy for him to say. He said that in an environment fraught with possible economic peril. But he sided with the principles that we all hold dearly, or most of us did until the last three years. I'm thrilled with what he said. The courage and leadership displayed is off the charts by comparison.”
Sopan Deb: South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba, pens critical editorial of Daryl Morey and also misrepresents his follow-up statement. SCMP is owned by Alibaba. Joe Tsai is on the board of directors for Alibaba.
Sen. Rick Scott claimed Monday afternoon the NBA has declined his request to meet with commissioner Adam Silver. In a tweet, the Republican senator said NBA officials told him that Silver is on a business trip in Asia. “Maybe he should make a pit stop in #HongKong to see the people fighting for their autonomy and human dignity,” Scott tweeted.
Chuck Salituro, the senior news director of ESPN, sent a memo to shows mandating that any discussion of the Daryl Morey story avoid any political discussions about China and Hong Kong, and instead focus on the related basketball issues. The memo, obtained by Deadspin, explicitly discouraged any political discussion about China and Hong Kong. Multiple ESPN sources confirmed to Deadspin that network higher-ups were keeping a close eye on how the topic was discussed on ESPN’s airwaves.
On Tuesday, Antetokounmpo was asked about the current situation between the NBA and China and offered his thoughts. “I feel like in the NBA they always allow us to express our feelings," Antetokounmpo said. "Players come out, GMs come out and express their feelings. At the end of the day, the NBA wants to have a great relationship with China and with the fans.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo: "I know this situation, they’re going to solve it in a way. But what can you do? Like, I feel like the NBA gives you a great platform to express your feelings and say what you believe and what you think about situations in the world. But I know that they’re going to find a way to solve this situation. It was just a misunderstanding.”
Nike shares fell Tuesday after China's state-backed broadcaster said it would stop airing NBA games as the fallout from a tweet from the Houston Rockets general manager threatened reprisals against U.S. companies operating in the world's third-largest economy.
Kevin O'Connor: Adam Silver on China not airing preseason games: "It’s unfortunate. But if that’s the consequences of us adhering to our values, we still feel it’s critically important we adhere to those values." Silver added that he plans to meet with officials in Shanghai about this issue.
“Actually I don’t,” Kerr said when asked if he has thoughts on the controversy. “It’s a really bizarre international story. A lot of us don’t know what to make of it. It’s something I’m reading about like everybody is, but I’m not gonna comment further.” That’s far from the standard Kerr response on social issues. And he’s right on one point. The conflict between the people of Hong Kong and the Chinese government is complex, and speaking publicly on the topic from a place of ignorance is ill advised.
While those officials responded to Morey’s comments, Kerr made it clear the league hasn’t provided direction on how to approach the controversy. "Nobody has said anything to us from the league or from the organization about whether we can comment or not comment," Kerr said.
Anthony Slater: Steve Kerr no comments on the Morey/China/NBA situation. Says he’s been reading about it, doesn’t feel versed enough to comment. Full back and forth here.
Boiling down a highly complex issue into a paragraph or two, though, in China, this isn’t about civil liberty. According to Tsai, and others interviewed by The Athletic, it’s about national sovereignty, and about everyone playing by the same rules. Hong Kong is a part of China, and the people there should play by the same rules as the people on the mainland. Hong Kong, once a British colony, was transferred to Chinese rule in 1997. Referring to Hong Kong or Macao or any Chinese territory as anything other than part of China is a major offense to the Chinese government, which sanctions businesses that make the mistake. In the past several months, Gap, Versace, and Coach have all been rebuked by the Chinese government for doing this very thing.
Organisers cancelled an NBA Cares Brooklyn Nets community event hours before it was scheduled to take place in Shanghai on Tuesday. The Nets were set to make an appearance at the New World Experimental Primary School in Shanghai in a court refurbishment ceremony, however a few hours before, the NBA abruptly sent out an email stating the event was cancelled. When asked, a NBA China representative in Shanghai offered no explanation as to why the event was cancelled and said they would keep media updated on the event tomorrow, another NBA Cares fan event at the Oriental Sports Centre.
Reports in American media claimed the Chinese government forced the event’s cancellation. However, NBA China representatives in Shanghai said they could not confirm or deny anything regarding the reasons for scrapping the event.
The NBA, which has sought to cultivate an inclusive and progressive reputation under Commissioner Adam Silver, was accused of hypocrisy and of putting its financial interests over its ideals. “I thought the NBA was proud to be the ‘wokest professional sports league’?” wrote Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Twitter. “I guess that only applies to speaking out on American politics and social issues. … China regulating speech in America is dangerous.”
According to league figures, 640 million Chinese viewers consumed NBA content during the 2017-18 season, and the NBA’s most recent five-year extension with Tencent was reportedly worth $1.5 billion. Tencent announced that 21 million people used its service to watch the decisive game of the 2019 NBA Finals — topping the viewership number in the United States.
Albert Nahmad: Adam Silver says the economic impact of Rockets/China situation is “already clear” and that there have already been “fairly dramatic consequences.” If it impacts league-wide revenue this season, it will in turn impact the 2020-21 salary cap, which is currently projected at $116M.
"I accept that it is also Chinese governments' and Chinese businesses' right to react to those words and, at least from my long-time experience in the NBA, it will take some time to heal some of these issues. "We are a platform in which people can engage and I would like to believe that for each side who believes they have a point of view here, that this engagement is positive."
Speaking to Kyodo News in Tokyo ahead of a preseason game between the Rockets and Toronto Raptors in Saitama on Tuesday, Silver acknowledged the damage Morey’s tweet in support of the Hong Kong protest movement had caused the NBA’s brand in China. “There is no doubt, the economic impact is already clear,” he said. “There have already been fairly dramatic consequences from that tweet, and I have read some of the media suggesting that we are not supporting Daryl Morey, but in fact we have.” “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.”
As the Morey furor continued to rumble through NBA circles and elsewhere, Alibaba Group co-founder and owner of the Brooklyn Nets Joe Tsai released a statement which Silver called “a fairly lengthy explanation from his standpoint on why (Morey’s) words are so hurtful to Chinese fans.” “As a governor of one of the 30 NBA teams, and a Chinese having spent a good part of my professional life in China, I need to speak up,” wrote Tsai, who took control of the Nets in August. “There are certain topics that are third-rail issues in certain countries, societies and communities…Supporting a separatist movement in a Chinese territory is one of those third-rail issues, not only for the Chinese government, but also for all citizens in China.”
Responding to criticism that the NBA put its economic interests ahead of defending Morey and his right to express his views, Silver was clear. “What I am supporting is his freedom of political expression in this situation,” he said. “I am also supporting Joe Tsai. I realize, as I said again, these are complex issues they don’t lend themselves easily to social media. I can’t ultimately run the NBA based on trying to satisfy everyone on Twitter.” “For those who choose also to engage, they’ll see that we are dealing with a complex set of issues. And I will just add that the fact that we have apologized to fans in China is not inconsistent with supporting someone’s right to have a point of view.”
In Tokyo, where the team is playing two exhibition matches this week, Harden distanced himself from the controversy. "We apologise. We love China," he said, standing alongside fellow Rockets guard Russell Westbrook. "We love playing there. Both of us, we go there once or twice a year. They show us most support so we appreciate them."
The Rockets do not plan to discipline Morey, according to one person with knowledge of the ownership’s thinking who was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly. Yet it remains to be seen how much Morey’s apology will mollify the fans and various entities in China that expressed such loud dismay about Morey’s original Twitter post, in which he shared an image that read, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong” — referencing the protests that have raged for months. The slogan is commonly chanted at demonstrations and has been spray-painted throughout the city.
In addition to Chinese sponsors such as the shoe company Li Ning and the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Card Center, which both announced that they were pausing their partnerships with the Rockets, team officials faced an immediate backlash from the Chinese Basketball Association and the Chinese consulate in Houston. The basketball association announcement Sunday that it was suspending cooperation with the Rockets was particularly jarring, since the federation president is the Hall of Fame center Yao Ming, who starred from the Rockets from 2002 to 2011. Yao’s N.B.A. success made the Rockets a favorite among Chinese fans.
Chinese broadcaster CCTV has said it will stop showing Houston Rockets games as the backlash in China grows over a tweet backing Hong Kong protests. CCTV's sports channel said in a statement on its Weibo channel Sunday, October 6, that it was "strongly opposed" to the "improper remarks" posted by the basketball team's general manager Daryl Morey.
In a statement late Sunday night, Tsai attempted to bridge the intercontinental divide among fans, but reinforced the chasm that exists in how they perceive the events in Hong Kong. He referred to the protests as a “separatist movement,” a common sentiment in China but a label the demonstrators deny. He framed the movement as a matter of “territorial integrity of China,” though most protesters insist they are uninterested in independence. “I don’t know Daryl personally. I am sure he’s a fine NBA general manager, and I will take at face value his subsequent apology that he was not as well informed as he should have been,” Tsai wrote. “But the hurt that this incident has caused will take a long time to repair.”
Ted Cruz: As a lifelong @HoustonRockets fan, I was proud to see @dmorey call out the Chinese Communist Party’s repressive treatment of protestors in Hong Kong. Now, in pursuit of big $$, the @nba is shamefully retreating. We’re better than this; human rights shouldn’t be for sale & the NBA shouldn’t be assisting Chinese communist censorship.
Julian Castro: China is using its economic power to silence critics—even those in the U.S. The United States must lead with our values and speak out for pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong, and not allow American citizens to be bullied by an authoritarian government.
Shams Charania: NBA is not disciplining Rockets GM Daryl Morey for his social media post, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. Morey also issued apology tonight.
Marc Stein: Echoing what @Sam Amick just tweeted, one source with knowledge of the situation tells @NYTSports that Houston has "no discipline" planned for Rockets GM Daryl Morey in the wake of this weekend's Hong Kong/China Twitter controversy
Daryl Morey: I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives. I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention. My tweets are my own and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA.
Storyline: Morey's Hong Kong Tweet
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