Oct 11, 2019

NBA suspends media availabilities for rest of its China trip

The NBA flagship store in Beijing. Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The NBA cancelled all media availabilities for the rest of its China trip ahead of this weekend's game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets in Shenzhen, reports ESPN.

"We have decided not to hold media availability for our teams for the remainder of our trip in China. They have been placed into a complicated and unprecedented situation while abroad and we believe it would be unfair to ask them to address these matters in real time."
— The NBA's official statement, per ESPN
  • ESPN says that the league made this decision "independent of Chinese authorities."

The big picture: China is also worried that backlash in the sports world over the NBA firestorm could hurt its image ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics, the New York Times reports.

  • "The dispute with the NBA was also quickly politicizing an audience of sports fans who would not normally focus on issues like the protests in Hong Kong."

Meanwhile, in Japan ... Following the Rockets' preseason win over the Raptors, a CNN reporter asked Russell Westbrook and James Harden the following question:

"The NBA has always been a league that prides itself on its players and its coaches being able to speak out openly about political and societal affairs. I just wonder after the events of this week and the fallout we've seen, whether you both feel differently about speaking out in that way in the future."

The response: There wasn't one. A Rockets employee interjected to prevent Westbrook and Harden from answering the question — something the NBA has since apologized for, saying the employee acted "inappropriately."

Go deeper: China's vise grip on corporate America

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Lebron James spins up another PR nightmare for the NBA's China controversy

Photo: Zhong Zhi/Getty Images

In his first comments since the Lakers returned from playing 2 exhibition games in China, LeBron James added another chapter to the NBA's ongoing saga — and created a PR nightmare.

Driving the news: James told reporters at Staples Center that Rockets GM Daryl Morey was "misinformed or not really educated" when he sent the pro-Hong Kong tweet heard 'round the world.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Oct 15, 2019

NBA braces for pro-Hong Kong protests as season kicks off

Pro-Hong Kong protesters hold signs at a Celtics-Cavaliers preseason game. Photo: Nic Antaya for The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The NBA is bracing for a wave of pro-Hong Kong protests during the opening week of its season thanks to the league's showdown with China over free speech, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The big picture: The NBA forbids signs with political messages at games, and most of its arenas have policies in place to eject fans for continued disruptive behavior — but a person familiar with the matter told the WSJ that the league "respects peaceful demonstrations and does not believe they will be a disruptive issue."

Go deeperArrowOct 21, 2019

Mike Pence blasts the NBA in speech on China

Vice President Pence. Photo: Stringer/Getty Images

Vice President Pence denounced the NBA in a speech on Thursday, saying the league is "siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech ... acting like a wholly owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime."

The big picture: Pence's accusations come after the general manager of the Houston Rockets incensed Chinese leaders with his support of pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong. NBA commissioner Adam Silver then backed GM Daryl Morey up, saying the league is "not willing to compromise" with China on freedom of expression for league employees.

Go deeperArrowOct 24, 2019