Silver Says He's Willing To Deal With Consequences Over China Dispute
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that he is "willing to deal with the business consequences" of Rockets GM Daryl Morey's tweet supporting protesters in Hong Kong, according to Sean Gregory of TIME. Morey "angered the Chinese government and caused Chinese sponsors to pull away from the NBA during two exhibition games there last week." Silver, speaking at the Time 100 Health Summit on Thursday, said the league is "not only willing" to cope with losses of millions in revenues, "but we are." He added, "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. I don't know where we go from here. The financial consequences have been and may continue to be fairly dramatic." The NBA's initial statement last week "used the word 'regrettable,' which Silver emphasized was describing the reaction of Chinese government officials, business executives and NBA fans in China -- not the content of Morey's tweet itself." Silver: "Maybe I was trying too hard to be a diplomat. I didn't see it as my role as the commissioner of the NBA to weigh in on the substance of the protest, but to say here's this platform [for free expression]" (TIME.com, 10/17). Meanwhile, Silver "didn't address the controversy" over LeBron James' comments on China. Instead, Thursday's interview shifted to a discussion on the NBA's "new program to support the mental health of its players" (N.Y. POST, 10/18).
ANOTHER DEVELOPMENT: Silver on Thursday also said that the Chinese government "asked the NBA to fire" Morey. Silver said, "There's no chance that's happening. There's no chance we'll even discipline him." However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said the Chinese government has "never made such a request." In N.Y., Sopan Deb writes Silver's account "illustrates how quickly and how deeply the relationship fractured between the powerful economy" of China and a league that has "spent decades building inroads for expanding in the world's most populous country" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/18). Also in N.Y., Marc Stein wrote the "backlash on home soil would be much louder ... if the Rockets ousted Morey for publicly supporting democracy and free speech." Forcing Morey out on those grounds "would be highly un-American." Stein: "I'm convinced that the Rockets would be crushed for such a move -- unless the crisis deepens to a point that Morey's ongoing presence affects Houston's NBA on-court business, its relationship with Rockets players and those around the league or otherwise compromises his ability to effectively do the job" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/16).