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Volume 26 No. 208
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NBA Personnel Focusing On China Issue's Impact On Revenue

NBA personnel -- including owners, GMs, players and agents -- are talking about the ongoing China controversy "as an economic issue, not a moral one," according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The view that officials are taking is, "What is this going to cost us?" Teams are "looking at the salary cap" and wondering if they are "going to lose some revenue when the cap number might be lower next year." Discussions also are being held about how the controversy could impact how teams build payroll, while players are "looking at the possibility of the loss of sponsorships." NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had to turn the debate into a "moral issue for the league, but the rank-and-file and the people who are doing business right now, they see this as an economic issue" ("NBA Countdown," ESPN, 10/16).

STERN WEIGHS IN: NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern said the league has been "treated unfairly" in the aftermath of the China situation. Stern, speaking last night at UMass-Amherst, said that "even the criticism of Silver's initial response was unfair and that media outlets inaccurately covered his statement as an apology." Stern said that the NBA should "keep doing business with China, but hold firm on its values of free expression." He said, "The NBA has gotten a very difficult rap the last few days, because it is being reported that it actually apologized to the Chinese for the tweet by Daryl Morey. ... In fact it never did. Adam Silver said that he regretted that our Chinese fans were upset by that, but that's the way it is in America. You educate yourself and you go ahead and tweet. And we have free speech here." In Boston, Nik DeCosta-Klipa notes Stern also "chided the politicians who involved themselves in the matter," specifically mentioning U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. (R-Texas), who were among the lawmakers that "signed a letter to Silver, calling on the NBA to suspend activities in China." Stern said he was ultimately "very proud of the way the NBA has handled itself" (BOSTON.com, 10/17).

COACHES REACT: Celtics coach Brad Stevens gave praise to Silver for his handling of the NBA-China tensions, saying he is "glad" to have Silver lead the league. Stevens during his weekly appearance on WBZ-FM said, "Obviously, after [Morey's] tweet, I thought the most important thing that Adam could say and that we and the league could say is that we value the freedom of expression." Stevens: "The way that he's handled that and the way that he's basically said, 'We're not going to regulate what people say. It's part of what we all believe.' I think is really important. I agree with him" (NBCSPORTSBOSTON.com, 10/16). Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts added, "Adam Silver had a tightrope to walk and I thought he did an excellent job in managing the situation" (Portland OREGONIAN, 10/16). However, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson stayed away from addressing the controversy, saying, "In four years here I've never commented on a political issue or a social issue. I'm just going to continue in that vein" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/17).

HITS KEEP COMING FOR LEBRON: In S.F., Ann Killion writes LeBron James' comments this week made him sound like a "mouthpiece stooge for an oppressive regime, losing a huge amount of credibility" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 10/17). In Orlando, David Whitley writes James has "taken a pencil to all the boxes" in regard to a future career in politics. Whitley: "Hypocrite -- check. Sellout -- check. Calculating -- check" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 10/17). In Columbus, Michael Arace writes under the header, "LeBron James Blew Opportunity To Stand Up For Justice" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 10/17). ESPN's Jalen Rose noted James had more than a week to prepare a statement, and Rose said, "I thought when they put a microphone in front of his face, he would have had something better to say that he didn't have to (later) clarify" ("NBA Countdown," ESPN, 10/16). The Dallas Morning News' Tim Cowlishaw: "The next time he tries to be LeBron James, spokesman on social justice causes, people are going to raise a lot of eyebrows." The Washington Post's Kevin Blackistone: "It makes himself look inconsistent, and you can't be inconsistent when you step out on these sorts of issues" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 10/16). USA TODAY's Jeff Zillgitt writes James' reputation "took a hit as his 'More Than An Athlete' mantra runs hollow." The "valid points he made got lost amid all the other things he should have avoided" (USA TODAY, 10/17). In DC, Sally Jenkins writes James "deserves the outrage he has invited, but it's vital to recognize he's just another American patsy to the Chinese party-state along with his entire league and he has displayed no more or less wisdom and courage than Disney executives" or the IOC (WASHINGTON POST, 10/17).

MORE THAN JUST HIS LATEST COMMENTS: In Miami, Greg Cote writes James' comments "wouldn't have been controversial at all except for his own standards on matters of social justice." Cote: "From him, we expected more." James at every other turn of his career "has shown his heart is right." There is a "world off the court that he cares to impact, and does." He is a "model for athlete activism, for the use of platform and voice" (MIAMI HERALD, 10/17). ESPN's Jay Williams noted James "bumbled this one," but added, "I don't think that takes away all the social equity that he's earned over his time by speaking out on issues." ESPN's Maria Taylor: "I'd hate to see if people devalue or diminish what LeBron has done domestically as a response to the way that he reacted to Daryl Morey's tweet" ("NBA Countdown," ESPN, 10/16). In L.A., LZ Granderson writes in the critique of James, it is "completely fair to point out actions that appear to be rooted in self-interest." To do so "under the guise that other athletes with a similar passion for social justice have always gotten it right is not only unfair, but also patently false." Granderson: "My concern is that this false premise will negate in people's minds all the philanthropic and social justice work James has done since he first entered the league" (L.A. TIMES, 10/17).