Storyline: Morey's Hong Kong Tweet

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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!”

LeBron steps into the minefield


“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

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.”

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.

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.

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.”
2 days ago via ESPN

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.”
2 days ago via ESPN

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.

“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.

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.

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.”
4 days ago via ESPN

No media availability in China

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.


4 days ago via CNBC

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.”
4 days ago via CNBC

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.”

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.

Salary cap drop due to China situation?

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.”

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.

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).
6 days ago via ESPN

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.”
6 days ago via ESPN

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.”

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.”

China games in jeopardy?

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.”

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.
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