Commissioner Adam Silver is trying to change the narrative surrounding the National Basketball Association’s dealings with China.
Silver said Thursday at a conference in New York that Chinese officials asked him initially to fire Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who got into hot water for tweeting “Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”
The subsequent uproar by China over the tweet caused problems during what was originally a goodwill tour by the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets. Posters were torn down, merchandise taken off shelves, TV and streaming options derailed, and media conferences cancelled. For the US, the NBA and Silver caught grief for initially appearing to apologize, then giving a somewhat muted response instead of a full defense of freedom.
The tepid response was galling to many, since the league and many of its players previously showed no hesitation in speaking out against perceived injustice in the US.
“We were being asked to fire him by the Chinese government. … We said there’s no chance that’s happening,” claimed Silver. “There’s no chance we’ll even discipline him.”
The NBA is still struggling with the right response on the issue of China, which accounts for a reported 10 percent of annual revenue for the league. LeBron James threw gasoline on the fire with his remarks earlier this week that Morey was “either misinformed or not really educated on the situation.” Hong Kong protesters subsequently burned James’s jerseys in the street.
Silver claimed the NBA has suffered monetary losses he characterized as “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,” Silver added. “The financial consequences have been and may continue to be fairly dramatic.”