October 09, 2019
TOKYO: The NBA is “not apologizing” for a tweet from a Houston Rockets executive supporting Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, the organization’s commissioner said Tuesday, despite a backlash in China.
“We are not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression,” NBA chief Adam Silver said, referring to Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.
“I regret, again having communicated directly with many friends in China, that so many people are upset, including millions and millions of our fans,” Silver added.
Meanwhile, the NBA and Brooklyn Nets abruptly cancelled a media event in Shanghai on Tuesday as the American basketball league struggles with a public relations crisis sparked by a tweet from a Houston Rockets executive backing Hong Kong democracy protesters.
Nets players, the team’s Taiwanese-Canadian owner Joseph Tsai, and NBA China officials were scheduled to be on hand for the publicity event, ahead of a pair of exhibition games in China against the Los Angeles Lakers this week.
But the NBA China sent out a brief notice to media just two hours before it was due to start, saying it had been scrapped.
The announcement gave no reason and NBA representatives did not immediately respond to AFP queries for an explanation, and to confirm whether other events and the games themselves would go ahead.
The NBA’s China crisis erupted on Friday when the Houston Rockets’ general manager posted a tweet backing protesters in the semi-autonomous southern Chinese city of Hong Kong who are demanding greater freedoms.
China, which allows no dissent on the sensitive issue, immediately sought to punish the Rockets, with state-run TV cutting its games and Chinese sponsors abandoning the team.
The NBA initially put out a statement saying that Houston GM Daryl Morey’s tweet was “regrettable”.
This triggered outrage from senior American politicians who accused the NBA of caving in to China so that they can protect its lucrative Chinese market.
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