Silver Hopes To Meet With China Execs, But Defends Free Expression
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver "hopes to meet with officials and some of the league's business partners" in Shanghai this week in an attempt to "find some sort of common ground" after Rockets GM Daryl Morey's pro-Hong Kong tweet threatened the relationship between the league and China, according to Wade & Reynolds of the AP. Silver today said that he "hopes Chinese officials and fans look at the totality of the impact of the three-decade-plus relationship." He said, "I'm sympathetic to our interests here and our partners that are upset. I don't think it's inconsistent on one hand to be sympathetic to them and at the same time stand by our principles." Silver made it clear the NBA is "not apologizing" for Morey's tweet and "insisted that Morey has the right to freedom of expression." Silver: "Daryl Morey, as general manager of the Houston Rockets, enjoys that right as one of our employees. ... I understand there are consequences from his freedom of speech and we will have to live with those consequences." Wade & Reynolds note one of those consequences is that CCTV will not air this week's Lakers-Nets games scheduled for Shanghai and Shenzhen. Silver indicated that the league "did not expect CCTV to cancel plans" to broadcast the games. However, he said, "If those are the consequences of us adhering to our values, I still feel it's very, very important to adhere to those values" (AP, 10/8).
YAO MING LESS THAN HAPPY: Silver today said that Basketball HOFer Yao Ming, who now is the head of the Chinese Basketball Association, is "extremely upset" with Morey's tweet. Silver: "There's no question that Daryl's tweet has hit what I would describe as a third-rail issue in China. I think Yao is extremely unsettled. ... I'm hoping that together Yao Ming and I can find an accommodation. But he is extremely hot at the moment, and I understand it." He added he is not going to China "to tell others how they should run their government." Meanwhile, Silver said he has talked to Morey since the ill-fated tweet was sent out, though he "would not share what was said" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/8).
GLOBAL CONCERN: USA TODAY's Jeff Zillgitt writes the NBA currently is "ensnared in a geopolitical crisis," one that is "up to Silver to navigate." He has "guided the NBA through turbulent times before, namely the Donald Sterling situation and relocating the All-Star Game from Charlotte over North Carolina's bathroom bill." However, this is a "global issue that intersects with U.S. values regarding democracy, free speech and foreign policy, and the NBA is walking a tightrope between financial gain and socio-political ideals" (USA TODAY, 10/8). In DC, Ben Golliver writes, "This type of outcry is a rarity for the NBA under Silver, whose tenure has been marked by his even-keeled personality, his player-friendly approach and the league's significant financial growth" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/8). In N.Y., Brian Lewis writes the NBA has a "full-fledged situation on its hands." The league is "caught trying to play defense in a situation it clearly didn't anticipate" (N.Y. POST, 10/8). In California, Kyle Goon writes, "The conflict of economic interests and political motivations is a needle the league has managed to thread for more than a decade of its increased investment in the Chinese market." This moment is "arguably the first serious threat to the harmony that the NBA and China have managed to maintain" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 10/8).
POLITICAL ACTION: THE HILL's Chris Mills Rodrigo notes U.S. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) has "demanded a meeting" with Silver over the league's response to Morey's tweet. Scott in a statement said, "The NBA's refusal to denounce Communist China for what it is -- our adversary -- is shameful. The NBA should stop playing games in Communist China" (THEHILL.com, 10/7). Scott has been "one of the most vocal U.S. lawmakers in terms of supporting the Hong Kong demonstrations." U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wrote on Twitter, "This is bigger than just the NBA. It's about China's growing ability to restrict freedom of expression here in the US." In Hong Kong, Robert Delaney notes the "anti-Beijing blowback came from both parties." Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang said, "The Chinese government banning the Rockets is a terrible move" (SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST, 10/8). U.S. Sen Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) "called for the NBA to cancel all exhibition games in China until the Hong Kong protests are peacefully resolved" (Springfield NEWS-LEADER, 10/8). The Chinese Consulate General in Houston issued a statement saying it was "deeply shocked" by Morey's "erroneous comments." The consulate also urged the Rockets to "correct the error and take immediate concrete measures to eliminate the adverse impact" (CHINA DAILY, 10/8).
CHINA, NBA NEED EACH OTHER: Axios Business Editor Dan Primack notes the NBA "feels it needs China ... but China needs the NBA also to a certain extent." Primack: "People love the NBA there, and if you take the games away from the hundreds of millions of people who love it, you're going to have a little bit of a problem there. You're going to have pushback on that." The Wall Street Journal's Jason Gay added, "China loves the NBA. It's a huge entertainment product there, and were the NBA to somehow remove itself, does that create a potential leverage point for the NBA?" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 10/8).
THIS WILL PASS? Warriors President & COO Rick Welts yesterday addressed the controversy, saying the issue is "not going to erase the decades of work that myself and everyone else in the NBA has put in in building a tremendous base for basketball in China." Welts: "This will pass, and I do think our future in China is probably pretty remarkable." More Welts: "When we put this in perspective six months from now it's not going to look as big as it's looking today" ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 10/7).