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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

An NBA GM has done a better job of alerting the U.S. to the China threat than any politician.

Why it matters: Millions of Americans appear to be realizing the power and breadth of China's ability to censor and control on a worldwide scale.

  • China has a history of leveraging access to its massive market of 1.5 billion consumers to get foreign companies to bend to its will, squeezing apologies out of multinational retailers and airlines alike.

But something else is happening here: The NBA, after initially backing away from Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey's tweet, is standing its ground — even though there are billions at stake if the league loses its Chinese audience.

  • Commissioner Adam Silver — who plans to visit Shanghai on Wednesday — backed Morey today: "[T]he NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues."
  • Yes, but: Silver has carefully avoided weighing in on the Hong Kong protests, making the issue about freedom of speech. "It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences."

China is hitting back: CCTV, the state-run broadcaster, has announced it will no longer air two pre-season games that will take place in China. "We're strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver's claim to support Morey's right to freedom of expression," CCTV said.

And new issues of China-backed censorship on U.S. shores are gaining attention. 

  • Activision Blizzard — the American gaming company behind World of Warcraft in which Chinese tech giant Tencent has a 4.9% stake — suspended and took prize money from Chung Ng Wai, a Hong Kong-based pro player for making a statement supporting the Hong Kong movement.

The bottom line: "The NBA may be more strongly positioned to push back than other U.S. businesses that have run afoul of the Chinese government," WSJ reports.

  • "It’s the most powerful sports league in the country and plays such an outsize role in local sporting culture that China without the NBA is increasingly unimaginable."

Go deeper... Podcast: The NBA's future is China

Go deeper

Updated 57 mins ago - Sports

IOC: Belarus sprinter who sought refuge in Tokyo "safe"

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus in 2019. Photo: Ivan Romano/Getty Images

Belarusian Olympian Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who sought refuge in Tokyo, is in the care of Japanese authorities and the UN refugee agency is now involved in her case, an International Olympic Committee official told reporters Monday.

The latest: Officials in Poland and the Czech Republic have offered to help the 24-year-old sprinter, who refused national team orders to board a flight home after being taken to Tokyo's Haneda airport Sunday following her criticism of Belarusian coaches, per Reuters

Updated 2 hours ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs of Team Italy crosses the finish line ahead of American Fred Kerley in the men's 100m final on day nine of the Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, on Sunday. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

🚨: IOC "looking into" American Raven Saunders' Olympic podium gesture

🏃🏾: Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs: Reconnecting with U.S. father "gave me the desire to win" Olympic 100m sprint race.

🥇High jumpers persuade Olympic officials to let them share gold

🏌️‍♂️: Golfer Xander Schauffele wins gold for U.S. by one shot

🤸🏿‍♀️: Simone Biles won't compete in Olympic floor finals, individual vault or uneven bars

🏳️‍⚧️: Axios at the Olympics: Games grapple with trans athletesTrans athletes see the Tokyo Games as a watershed moment

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage

Updated 2 hours ago - Sports

IOC "looking into" American Raven Saunders' Olympic podium gesture

Team USA's Raven Saunders gestures on the podium with her silver medal after competing in the women's shot put event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Sunday. Photo: Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee is "looking into" U.S. shot-putter Raven Saunders' gesture on the Tokyo Games podium after she won a silver medal, IOC spokesperson Mark Adams told reporters Monday.

Why it matters: Saunders told AP she placed her hands above her head in an "X" formation while on the podium to stand up for "oppressed" people. The IOC has banned protests during the Tokyo Games.