Silver Defends NBA Employees' Right to Free Speech as China Cancels Broadcasts


The NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, said the league is not apologizing for Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s since-deleted tweet showing support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, even after China’s state broadcaster cancelled plans to show a pair of preseason games in that country later this week.

Silver, speaking on Tuesday at a news conference in Tokyo before a preseason game between the Rockets and the Toronto Raptors, went as far as to say that he and the league are “apologetic” that so many Chinese officials and fans were upset by Morey’s tweet but insisted that the executive has the right to freedom of expression.

The NBA has also received criticism from US politicians.

Senator Ted Cruz said the league was guilty of “assisting Chinese censorship” by initially saying it was “regrettable” that Morey’s tweet had caused offence in China.

“Daryl Morey, as general manager of the Houston Rockets, enjoys that right [to free speech] as one of our employees,” Silver said.

“What I also tried to suggest is that I understand there are consequences from his freedom of speech and we will have to live with those consequences.”

Those consequences are already becoming clear.

The state-run China Central Television (CCTV) said it would not show the games between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets, who will play on Thursday in Shanghai and Saturday in Shenzhen.

Basketball is wildly popular in China, with the Lakers drawing particularly strong support due to the presence of superstar LeBron James

“We’re strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver’s claim to support Morey’s right to freedom of expression,” CCTV said in a statement.

“We believe that any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability are not within the scope of freedom of speech.”

The broadcaster is also reviewing all its cooperation with the NBA, according to the statement.

Chinese state media on Wednesday accused the NBA of endorsing violence with the China Daily accusing Silver of “brazenly endorsing Morey’s secessionist-supporting tweet” and giving “a shot to the arms of the rioters of Hong Kong”.

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