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NBA suspends media availabilities for rest of its China trip

NBA store in China
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