Chinese state media slam NBA in free speech row


Chinese state media on Wednesday accused the National Basketball Association (NBA) of endorsing violence and peddling a "secessionist pipe dream" in an escalating row over comments by a team official in support of protests in Hong Kong.

The tweet sent over the weekend by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has angered fans and authorities in China, threatening a business said to be worth more than $4 billion in a country where about 500 million fans consume NBA content.

Morey deleted the tweet backing the Hong Kong protests and apologised on Monday, but Chinese broadcasters, sportswear companies and sponsors have said they are reviewing their ties with the NBA, which has had a presence in China since 1992.

The NBA initially described the anger over Morey's post as "regrettable," drawing criticism from U.S. politicians who accused the league of putting its China business ahead of free speech.

But league commissioner Adam Silver, speaking Tuesday in Japan before a preseason game between the Rockets and Toronto Raptors, said it was not up to the league to regulate what players, employees and team owners said.

On Wednesday, an editorial in the official English-language China Daily accused Silver of "brazenly endorsing Morey's secessionist-supporting tweet" and giving "a shot to the arms of the rioters of Hong Kong."

"If Silver thinks endorsing the indiscriminate violence the radical Hong Kong protesters are resorting to ... is supporting freedom of expression, then he should think again," it said.

The protests were "a bid to liberate the city" and "a secessionist pipe-dream" peddled by demonstrators "to justify their summer hooliganism," the newspaper added.

The protests were sparked by opposition to a law allowing extradition to mainland China, but have since evolved into broader calls for democracy. None of the protesters' five demands is secession or independence.

The basketball furore also comes against the backdrop of the U.S.-China trade war, which escalated after Washington imposed visa restrictions on Chinese officials on Tuesday.

The Global Times, a Chinese tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party's People's Daily newspaper, accused Silver of caving in to political pressure, saying the NBA was treating the Chinese market with arrogant disregard.

"Tweeting something offensive to the Chinese people before a series of NBA promotional activities in China only shows a lack of intellect, respect, and responsibility," it said.

In a separate report, the newspaper also said that some Chinese internet users had made "disrespectful comments" about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

"(It) should remind Western media that for Chinese people, the Hong Kong riots are just like the 9/11, which is horrible and can't be justified," the Global Times said.

No one has been killed in several months of protests in Hong Kong, although scores - mostly protesters and journalists - have been hurt. The Sept 11, 2001, attacks killed 2,996 people and led to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.


Basketball is the most popular sport in China, with about 300 million people playing the game. The NBA has deals with TV and digital media outlets across the country, and teams have played exhibition games annually since 2014.

NBA China, launched in 2008 to run the league's business, is now worth more than $4 billion, according to Forbes.

The fallout from the Morey's tweet continued on Wednesday.

The NBA had planned to stage media events in Shanghai this week ahead of a preseason exhibition game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.

Organisers cancelled an event at a Shanghai school on Tuesday afternoon, as well as an open training session with the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday, though a "fans' night" was still on despite a boycott by Chinese celebrities.

State television has already halted plans to air exhibition games played in China this week, saying a country's sovereignty and social stability were "not within the scope of freedom of speech." China has accused the West of stirring up anti-Beijing sentiment in Hong Kong.

Chinese online travel agency Ctrip said late on Tuesday it had stopped sales of tickets to NBA games as well as NBA-related tour packages, joining a growing list of companies severing ties with the league.

"Ctrip firmly opposes any speech that challenges national sovereignty and social stability," it said on the social media platform Weibo, adding that it would suspend cooperation with the NBA.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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I don't think Red China understands the meaning of "freedom of speech", thus cannot understand (tolerate) the Hong Kongers or an NBA GM practicing it.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Free speech is infectious, so what China really fears is that it will spread into the general population. But some of the people's anger might also stem from the resentment that they aren't accorded the same privilege.

Not sure what the future holds for Hong Kong, but right now it doesn't look good.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Speed@I think "Red China" is something of an anachronism that was common up to the end of the 1970s when people still differentiated between the "two Chinas" of the mainland and Taiwan. After the U.S. recognized the mainland in the term fell into disuse. Like it or not, China's present government is in control, with communist-controlled government and a capitalist economy. While many topics remain taboo, Chinese people have limited freedoms, such as to travel and study abroad, etc. There's nothing inherent in the Chinese psyche that opposes free speech --- just look to Taiwan as a successful example --- but it's clearly not a high priority.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

China is the most important market for the NBA. So it's easy to see why it folded to the combme.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

And in other news Mumbai just hosted two NBA pre-season games, looks like prep work to develop alternate market.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

China must be a very weak country to be so threatened by words. 

China is showing how weak it is by fighting even outside criticism. A secure nation would be able to endure criticism, especially in an autonomous region which prefers democracy to autocratic pseudo-communistic policies.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

All the NBA people screaming that Trump is literally a dictator are awful quiet when it’s an actual dictator and when it affects their pocket. (Hi Steve Kerr and Coach Popovich)

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Using sports for politics is very wrong ,nba , u just killed my interest in yr sports.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Good for Morey, **** china !!!..

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Looks like China is learning; they have taken a page form the US play book; sanctions and boycotts.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

All the NBA people screaming that Trump is literally a dictator are awful quiet when it’s an actual dictator and when it affects their pocket. (Hi Steve Kerr and Coach Popovich)

Actually, Coach Popovich spoke up in support of the NBA Commissioner

Coach Popovich: "And 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. So I'm thrilled with what he said."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In China, freedom means being able to choose between Huawei and Xiaomi.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

^ You mean the only freedom is speak extremely good thing about the party or speak very good thing about the party.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I don’t this is about free speech at all. China can cry all it wants. It’ll never take away the freedom of speech away from Americans.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Free speech does not mean you can say anything you want. You can’t make racist comments for example. The NBA banned former San Diego Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling for life. He told his girlfriend more or less not to bring her black friends to the basketball games.

Does he have free speech? Yes, but if he wants to be an owner of an NBA team he is not allowed to say what he said.

The Rocket’s GM also enjoys free speech. But if the Rockets and the NBA want to open the wallets of 500 million customers, the GM won’t be able to say what he said.

The NBA did the right thing and came down hard on an owner who made racist remarks.

The Chinese government came down hard on what they believe is promoting rebellion.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Q. Twitter is blocked in China.

How is a comment posted on a Non-existent to Chinese viewable site a problem ?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Actually, Coach Popovich spoke up in support of the NBA Commissioner

And coach Doc Rivers:

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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