NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the Chinese Communist Party’s state-run tv once again airing the league’s games after an 18-month ban is a “positive” development that is not “inconsistent with [the NBA’s] values.”
“I think engagement is positive, particularly through sports,” Silver told reporters, according to Reuters on Thursday. “Using sports as a platform to keep people around the world talking is critically important. At the same time, I don’t think it’s inconsistent with our values for our game to be broadcast in China and 200-plus other countries in the world.”
In October 2019, then-general manager of the Houston Rockets Daryl Morey tweeted his support for Hong Kong’s anti-government pro-democracy protests. In response, the Chinese Communist Party immediately suspended broadcasts of NBA games on China’s state-run tv station CCTV.
Silver said the NBA blackout in China cost the league “hundreds of millions” of dollars, but noted that the NBA backs its players’ and teams’ freedom of speech.
“Others since then have spoken out about their views around China and other places in the world, and if the consequences are that we’re taken off the air or we lose money, we accept that,” he said.
The commissioner also addressed the criticism that the NBA has received over doing business with China, arguing that the U.S. government should lead the way if business relations with the communist nation are considered inappropriate.
“From a policy standpoint, virtually every Fortune 100 company is doing business in China. We have an enormous, humongous trade relationship with China. Virtually all the phones in this room, the clothes you are wearing, the shoes you are wearing, are made in China,” Silver said. “From a larger societal standpoint, this is something where we have to look to the U.S. government for direction.
“And if people are suggesting now that we should no longer have trade relations with China, and I don’t think they are, that’s a huge global issue where we will follow the lead from our government,” he added.
Like Daryl Morey, Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter Freedom has spoken out against the Chinese Communist Party despite the potential impact it could have on the NBA’s bottom line. Earlier this year, Freedom accused the International Olympics Committee of being “complicit” in the Chinese Communist Party’s “brutal dictatorship” just weeks before the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Freedom spoke out again this week, this time against Silver’s excitement over China airing NBA games.
“Adam Silver says ‘it’s a positive thing that we’re exporting this Americana, #NBA basketball & the messages that come with it to #China,'” he tweeted. “You are trying to export this Americana to an Evil Empire, which gives you billions of dollars to shut up & do their propaganda in our country.”