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More on Morey's Hong Kong Tweet

In a commentary on Saturday, state broadcaster CCTV said Silver had “crossed the bottom line” by continuing to defend Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, who posted an image on Twitter on October 4 saying “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong”.
"It's interesting in this situation with China, they're shoving a camera in our face and be like, 'No you can't say no comment we need you to speak on this,'" Iguodala continued, highlighting what he believes is a double standard. "They ready to attack LeBron for making a statement because they don't like his statement, they feel like he should have took another stance. But when he's home and he makes a stance about... and it's like, 'No this is not your place to make that statement.' That was just mindblowing. That's what bothered me the most."
China is refuting NBA commissioner Adam Silver's claim that it demanded the firing of Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey over a tweet that supported anti-government protests in Hong Kong. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang says the "Chinese government never posed this requirement." During an appearance in New York on Thursday, Silver said the NBA was "being asked to fire [Morey] by the Chinese government, by the parties we dealt with, government and business."
NBA commissioner Adam Silver told reporters on Thursday that the league has dealt with “fairly dramatic” financial losses in the fallout of Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey's tweet of support to the Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters. “The losses have already been substantial,” he said at the Time 100 Summit. “Our games are not back on the air in China as we speak, and we'll see what happens next... I don't know where we go from here. The financial consequences have been and may continue to be fairly dramatic.”
A group of local Vancouverites are looking to test the National Basketball Association’s commitment to free speech on Friday morning (Hong Kong time) when the Los Angeles Clippers take on the Dallas Mavericks in a preseason game at Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver. The game will start at 10.30am Hong Kong time. According to an article by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, a publicly funded news network, a group of people who support democracy in Hong Kong will stage a protest during the game. CBC spoke to the protest organiser, Lee Haber, who said the group’s goal is clear. “We want to test the NBA: Do you really stand for freedom of speech?” Haber told the CBC.
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving regularly go there on Nike business, although they haven’t spoken publicly about last week’s contentious trip. But Spencer Dinwiddie’s self-endorsed signature shoe is made and marketed in China — and he says it still will be even after the latest flap. “[That] doesn’t have much of a bearing on what was going on,” Dinwiddie said. “That was completely outside Spencer. So, I mean, they still sell my shoes, so I don’t have any problems.”
Now, after just two weeks of scandal, the future of the N.B.A. in a country where it has eyed expansion for several decades is uncertain, Silver said. “I felt we had made enormous progress in terms of building cultural exchanges with the Chinese people, and I have regret that much of that was lost,” Silver said. “And I’m not even sure where we’ll go from here.”
Silver said the Chinese government asked for Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, to be fired. Morey set off the international firestorm with a tweet using a slogan used by the protesters in Hong Kong, just as the league was preparing to stage games in Shanghai and Shenzhen between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Nets. “We said there’s no chance that’s happening,” Silver said. “There’s no chance we’ll even discipline him.”
Brian Lewis: #NBA commissioner Adam Silver at the TIME 100 Health Summit on the China situation: “The losses have already been substantial. Our games are not back on the air in China as we speak, and we’ll see what happens next.” #nets #rockets
Hu Xijin, editor of the usually virulently nationalistic outlet Global Times, posted a surprising call for restraint on Weibo. “There’s no need for cutting cooperation with the NBA to become some sort of trend,” Hu wrote. “As America becomes more closed, China needs to keep a more open mind-set.” By Monday, Chinese media giant Tencent had resumed live-streaming NBA games. Nationalists voiced their disappointment online. “We have already surrendered?” wrote one Weibo user with the screen name Hsiung Fan. “I feel like an idiot to believe everything was real,” wrote another user named Yuchen Bao_Bao.
“This kind of highly nationalistic emotions are promoted by certain Communist Party and government branches rather than the government as a whole,” said Fang Kecheng, professor of communication and journalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He pointed to state media, which serve as the propaganda department, as an example. “By publishing those articles criticizing Apple, the NBA, they can draw a lot of page views and shares and likes and followers,” he said. “They can report to their boss saying, we have been doing great and we have significant influence online, especially among young people.”
With that landscape in mind, the notion of James focusing on one of his NBA associates rather than the other important issues at hand was unproductive, to say the least. As I wrote recently, sources say there was a specific spark that led to the tweet from Morey, who has spoken out in support of civil liberty issues several times before on Twitter: The new law enacted by Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, that bans face masks during protests and is widely seen as a tactic to identify dissidents. What’s more, James’ view stood in stark contrast to the view shared by one of the league’s other legends with whom James has so often been aligned, the San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich.
A review of nearly 170,000 tweets, plus analysis from expert information warfare researchers, shows that Morey was the target of what appears to be a coordinated harassment campaign after his tweet on Oct. 4 set off an international furor and threatened the NBA’s future in the world’s most populous country.
In at least one case, a reporter was explicitly told to stand down on covering the story the way he wanted. Prominent NBA reporter Zach Lowe attempted to host an expert from the Council on Foreign Relations on his podcast, only to be told he couldn’t.
Malika Andrews: Joe Harris on whether or not he is worried about the financial implications of Daryl Morey’s tweets: “I already get paid too much to play a game. So, not really.”
“It’s a tough situation we’re all in right now with the association (NBA), us as athletes, GMs (general managers) and owners and so forth,” James said. “I think when the issue comes up and you feel passionate about it and you feel like it’s something you want to talk about, then so be it. “I also don’t think every issue should be everybody’s problem as well. When things come up, there’s multiple things that we haven’t talked about that have happened in our own country that we don’t bring up. There’s things that happen in my own community in trying to help my kids graduate high school and go off to college. That’s been my main concern the last couple of years with my school.
Hong Kong anti-government protesters were burning Lebron James jerseys and trampling on them following the comments made by the Los Angeles Lakers superstar on Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey’s now-deleted tweet in support of the protests. These actions by the protesters came after James talked about Morey, saying that: “Yes, we do have freedom of speech,” James said. “But at times there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you’re not thinking about others when you only think about yourself.”
When the next slight comes, experts say China will expect the offender to fall in line with the usual response. At a minimum, that means an apology and muting of any message that even remotely challenges the power of the authoritarian regime or its “sovereignty.” In the case of the NBA, Commissioner Adam Silver said last week the league was “not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression” but said he regretted that people got upset over his tweet. The NBA also shut up about Hong Kong, where protesters have been fighting for democracy and autonomy apart from mainland China and its one-party government in Beijing.
“Given the high popularity of NBA in China, perhaps over time this conflict could soften,” said Maria Repnikova, an assistant professor at Georgia State and author of the book Media Politics in China: Improvising Power under Authoritarianism. The key words are “this conflict,” which doesn’t apply to the next one or the one after that. Repnikova notes that Morey’s tweet came at a particularly sensitive time in U.S.-China relations. Besides the conflict in Hong Kong, China is engaged in a trade war with the U.S. that’s led to global economic anxiety. Against that backdrop, Repnikova told USA TODAY Sports that China’s reaction to Morey’s tweet can be viewed as a warning shot to others – a “signaling mechanism for other U.S. companies and entities to practice more caution in discussing China's politically sensitive issues publicly.”
John Gonzalez: After talking about the NBA and China after practice today, @LeBron James said he won’t talk about the issue again. “We’re not politicians.”
“Nearly a week ago today, in a Shanghai hotel room, or Shanghai hotel ballroom, Adam Silver got up and addressed the players, and LeBron James is one of the players who got up and spoke and said, ‘Hey, what are we doing here? Daryl Morey made these statements,'” McMenamin recalled on air Tuesday. “You know damn well if a player made the same statements and caused such poor ramifications for the league, there would be some sort of league recourse.”
“There would be repercussions the player has to pay. You know, potentially this tweet could cost the NBA hundreds of millions of dollars. That could come out of the players’ pockets, and so that’s the double standard that was being addressed in that meeting,” he continued.
On Sunday's episode of "Last Week Tonight" on HBO, Oliver recapped China's backlash against the NBA following Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's since-deleted tweet in support of pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong. Oliver called China's uproar over Morey's tweet "absurd," before facetiously criticizing Morey for letting Chriss go in a trade last season. "You wanna be angry at him, how about the fact he traded away power forward Marquese Chriss as part of a three-team deal with the Kings and Cavaliers back in February?" Oliver joked. "Chriss is [6-foot-10] with a 7-foot wingspan, plays way above the rim and can mix it up in the post. Yes, granted, he's had his issues on the Suns -- I'm not denying that. But he's the exact type of athletic big man that could have balanced out [Russell Westbrook and James Harden] especially when he's coming off the bench for P.J. Tucker. "What I'm saying, Daryl, is your tweet about Hong Kong was totally fine -- nothing to apologize for there -- but when it comes to Marquese Chriss, you f----d up, Daryl!"
"I don't want to get into a [verbal] feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn't educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke," James said before the Los Angeles Lakers played the Golden State Warriors in a preseason game at Staples Center. "And so many people could have been harmed not only financially, physically, emotionally, spiritually. So just be careful what we tweet and say and we do, even though, yes, we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that, too."
"I believe he was either misinformed or not really educated on the situation, and if he was, then so be it," James said. "I have no idea, but that is just my belief. Because when you say things or do things, if you are doing it and you know the people that can be affected by it and the families and individuals and everyone that can be affected by it, sometimes things can be changed as well. And also social media is not always the proper way to go about things as well, but that's just my belief."
Enes Kanter: Wow dude! 🤦🏻‍♂️ SMH -Haven’t seen or talked to my family 5 years -Jailed my dad -My siblings can’t find jobs -Revoked my passport -International arrest warrant -My family can’t leave the country -Got Death Threats everyday -Got attacked, harassed -Tried to kidnap me in Indonesia FREEDOM IS NOT FREE
During the meeting, sources said, several prominent players voiced frustration about their perception that they were being put in the middle of the dispute between the NBA and China, and they said they were unhappy about being asked to address the situation by local Chinese reporters before Silver himself was scheduled to do so.
James spoke up and said Silver should be on the front lines of any league communication with the media. “I think it would have been very unfair for a kid like Talen Horton-Tucker, who is a 19-year-old rookie, to have to comment about such issues that he has absolutely nothing [to do with], that he has no knowledge about,” James said. “And are we sure that he would have said, ‘Sorry guys, I have no idea what’s going on.’ Are we sure he would have said that? Or could have had said something that could have been detrimental to not only himself but for everyone that was there.”
There were moments of frustration when some players asked if they could go home. If they said the wrong thing about Hong Kong or any other topic, would the Chinese government delay their flights home?
The microscope focused on the NBA quickly expanded to encompass the activities of other U.S. companies with strong business ties in China, including Apple Inc. and entertainment company Activision Blizzard Inc. But an analysis of Morning Consult polling suggests that there’s no marked downside for international companies to continue with business as usual in China: Consumers simply don’t hold strong opinions on corporate dealings in the second-largest economy in the world.
Kyle Goon: Frank Vogel said he was proud of the way the players conducted themselves in China, and said they were willing to do whatever the league asked of them. When asked if he would go back to China for a similar trip in the future, Vogel said yes.
Multiple league front-office and ownership sources tell The Athletic that they believe Silver will be able to regain a foothold in the NBA-China relationship but fear irreparable losses for the Rockets in the indefinite future. The NBA and Rockets have supported Morey’s freedom of expression, and both decided not to discipline him.
According to sources, Morey did not expect his tweet to implode the way it did. He has returned to business for the Rockets, making two transaction moves last week in releasing former No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett and claiming forward Ray Spalding off waivers. The Rockets are also now dealing with an injury to key rotation player Gerald Green, who is feared to be sidelined a few months because of a broken left foot.
Lakers star LeBron James spoke up in front of everyone in the room and stated he believed that Silver and the NBA needed to explain and articulate the situation first, before the players would have to, multiple sources with direct knowledge of the meeting told The Athletic. James expressed concern that without the league being able to speak to media to address all of the questions and dynamics about China and the NBA, it was unfair for solely players to bear that responsibility.
James understood many players were not in a position to attack the questions head on, and led the joint players-only meeting after their session with Silver where the same concepts were discussed among all 38 Lakers and Nets players on the trip to China. “Why are we the ones to go through the risks of speaking out in China when the league should be the first to address the matter, with our voices to follow?” said one source with knowledge of the meeting and the players’ thinking in regard to James’ message. They discussed making sure they felt safe and protected without thrusting themselves in unfair positions, sources said. Nets star guard Kyrie Irving and Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma joined James in speaking during the players-only meeting, sources said.
Sources told The Athletic that several Lakers and Nets players lost money over broken deals in Shanghai that involved sponsorship appearances. China was fully halting business with the NBA and its players. As The Athletic’s Bill Oram reported from Shenzhen, Kyle Kuzma was set to announce new sponsorship deals while in China, but they were scrapped once the team arrived in Shanghai because of the controversy. This coincides with what happened to the Rockets. Sources told The Athletic that at least two Houston players had sponsorship negotiations stall out in China after the impact of Morey’s post began to spiral.
Vincent Ellis: Pistons coach Dwane Casey: “I’m not going to sit here and talk about Chinese relations with Hong Kong if I don’t understand it, the complexities of it.” Most NBA players don't connect with what's going on in China. And that's OK… via @freep
HoopsHype asked seven NBA agents how they’re advising their clients to answer questions about this topic and whether they believe this controversy will affect the salary cap. The agents spoke on the condition of anonymity. Several other agents refused to comment – even off the record – because this is such a sensitive topic. Since this is such a touchy situation, some agents have advised their players to avoid talking about it altogether. “We proactively addressed our clients and told them not to discuss this and just let the NBA handle it at this point,” one agent said. “There’s really no upside to speaking out about this if you’re a player, so we advised them that it’s best to stay out of it and let Adam Silver and the league handle this.”
“After Klay Thompson rolls out of bed and fixes a 300-year debate in China via Twitter, should he then move on to fixing Palestine?” another agent wondered. “[Brooklyn Nets owner] Joe Tsai said it perfectly: It’s just one of those things that exist that is beyond comprehension and debate; it’s a third rail.”
Back at practice in Houston for the first time since returning from a preseason trip to Japan, the Rockets star said Sunday he doesn't intend to address the controversy anymore. During a scrum with reporters, Harden tried to steer the conversation back to basketball and the upcoming season. "I'm staying out of it," said Harden. "I'm focusing on what we have and trying to get better. We're a week and a half away from the regular season."
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich on Sunday responded to criticism from Donald Trump, praising NBA commissioner Adam Silver's handling of the ongoing China issue as compared to the president's relationship to a number of foreign leaders. "[Silver] stood by our nation and its principles. That's pretty huge in these days," Popovich told reporters before the Spurs' preseason game against the New Orleans Pelicans. "Sometimes, it's kind of Orwellian. You think we're living in a place where, 'Is this really happening?' But that comparison was pretty stark when you put our president up against those leaders when he's with them or talking to him and how he reacts compared to the way Adam Silver reacted. I was proud of him. It was great."
Wearing all-black in a show of solidarity to pro-democracy protesters, Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas continued his strong criticism of the NBA's apparent attempts to balance support for free speech while safeguarding its financial ties to the lucrative Chinese television market. "What ended up happening is the NBA as a league began this series of apologies, and it was really sad to see an American company and indeed a global sports league like the NBA being dragooned into censoring the free speech of American citizens in the interest of big bucks," Cruz, an avid basketball fan, told "Face the Nation" Sunday from Hong Kong, where he was visiting.
Salman Ali: Mike D'Antoni on China incident: "It is a distraction... But guys can handle it. We still got good work in. Everything's fine. It happens. It's regrettable that it happened, but as I said, our work will get done."
Kuzma’s plans to announce additional sponsorship deals with Chinese companies were scrapped once the Lakers arrived on Tuesday and found themselves caught in the middle of a stalemate between the NBA and the Chinese government.
“The presumption that there’s been an immediate loss — I think that number is much lower than the crazy numbers that have been thrown around,” said Rick Burton, a professor of sports management at Syracuse University’s Falk College. “The fact that a preseason game was pulled from being on air in China, or the fact that some sponsors have temporarily pulled out, I think that amount is relatively small. The bigger question is what’s the long-term ripple effect here.”
An extensive sponsor and media boycott of the Rockets soon spiraled. China’s punitive response could cost the Rockets around $25 million in sponsorship losses this season, according to one person with knowledge of the situation who was not authorized to discuss it publicly. It didn’t take long for a number of rival teams to start besieging the league for estimates of how much they stand to lose, too. Yahoo Sports reported Wednesday that at least five unnamed teams fear that the $116 million salary cap projected for the 2020-21 season could drop by as much as 10 to 15 percent.
That group includes Curry’s teammate Klay Thompson, who earns an estimated $9 million per season from the Chinese brand Anta. Several players command between $2 million and $10 million annually from Chinese companies such as Anta, Li-Ning and Peak, according to two people familiar with shoe contract negotiations who were not authorized to discuss them publicly.
Steve Kerr: I comment a lot about gun safety. It’s a cause that’s very near and dear to my heart. It’s very crucial for our country for our future. We face mass shootings literally every day. So I’m involved with four or five different gun safety groups. It’s my pet cause. So I’m going to comment on it. It’s my right. That’s why I love being an American and love my country. I’m able to channel my energy and my resources to places where I want it to go. I feel really comfortable with that. There are places where I don’t feel as comfortable. This would be one of them.
Steve Kerr: The same people who are asking me to stick to sports are also asking me to expand my horizons. I guess that’s what I’m hearing. Again, I will speak on the things I’m comfortable with. I will do things I believe are helpful for my country. I love my country, despite what President Trump said yesterday. I work really, really hard on a lot of things off the floor. One of those things is I don’t want people to feel what my family felt when my father was killed. I know what it feels like to have a family member ended by a bullet. So that’s a passionate, passionate subject for me. So I research it, I’m involved with various organizations, I’m constantly meeting with people, fundraising. It’s part of my life.
To continue our geopolitical discussion here, in all the years you’ve gone to China and the team has gone to China, has it ever come up that the team’s business interests in China are at odds with a country whose human rights record is not in step with the United States? Steve Kerr: It has not come up in terms of people asking about it, people discussing it. Nor has our record of human rights abuses come up, either. Things that our country needs to look at and resolve. That hasn’t come up either. None of us are perfect. We all have different issues we have to get to. Saying that is my right as an American. It doesn’t mean that I hate my country. It means I want to address the issue. But people in China didn’t ask me about, you know, people owning AR-15s and mowing each other down in a mall. I wasn’t asked that question.
The NBA told USA TODAY’s National NBA writer Jeff Zillgitt that the league will not speak to the media for the remainder of their time in China. The Chinese government cancelled several NBA events this week but allowed Thursday’s game to go on as planned in Shanghai, but without the typical media availability that accompanies NBA games.
Some NBA players in China feel like they're caught in the middle of an impossible position. "They feel they are in tough spot because they're going to have to talk about things that they aren't well-versed on," someone in touch with two players currently in China told SNY. "They thought they were here to play basketball and entertain, and it's turned into a circus."
Brad Stevens hasn’t been one to put himself out there when it comes to domestic social and political matters, let alone foreign ones. So he didn’t have much to say when the subject came up with reporters at practice in Orlando on Thursday. “I don't really have anything to add other than what’s been talked about. I think, ultimately, we’ve been watching if from afar like everybody else,” he said. “I’ve said for a long time, I appreciate the league and the league’s support of people’s right to express themselves, and I appreciate the leadership that Adam Silver provides all the time.”
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.
Storyline: Morey's Hong Kong Tweet
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