Despite consequences, National Basketball Association boss defends values in China row

09 Octobre, 2019, 11:44 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said Hong Kong protesters should fight for freedom

Silver, speaking on Tuesday at a news conference in Tokyo before a preseason game between the Rockets and the Toronto Raptors, went as far as to say that he and the league are "apologetic" that so many Chinese officials and fans were upset by Morey's tweet but insisted that the executive has the right to freedom of expression.

A string of key Chinese sponsors have since distanced themselves from the U.S. organisation, including the country's largest sportswear maker and its second-biggest dairy firm.

But the National Basketball Association is facing increasing pressure from fans to pull the plug on the annual Global Games in China following a heated row stemming from a tweet from Daryl Morey in support of the Hong Kong protests.

The NBA has made global expansion - particularly into China - a core part of its mission.

"Daryl Morey, as general manager of the Houston Rockets, enjoys that right [to free speech] as one of our employees", Silver said. Morey's tweet reportedly supported the anti-government demonstrations taking place in Hong Kong and after it was shared, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver also backed up Morey's statements.

He says "this is about far more than growing our business".

Silver also responded to those criticizing the league's approach over the last several days, including some USA lawmakers.

The broadcaster said any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability are not within the scope of freedom of speech.

A ceremonial NBA Cares event for an educational center in Shanghai with the Nets was canceled Tuesday, though the Nets participated in other events as scheduled.

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It said, "If Silver thinks endorsing the indiscriminate violence the radical Hong Kong protesters are resorting to.is supporting freedom of expression, then he should think again".

Silver wants to meet with Chinese officials when he gets to Shanghai on Wednesday, saying he wants Morey's tweet and the NBA's comments that followed in context.

"But I'm a realist as well, and I recognise that this issue may not die down so quickly", he said.

Both Democrats and Republicans have castigated the league for its initial reaction to the situation: A statement on Sunday that said it was "regrettable" that Mr Morey's tweet had offended people in China.

The NBA had also said that "the values of the league support individuals' educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them".

"It is inevitable that people around the world - including from America and China - will have different viewpoints over different issues", Silver said.

On Tuesday, China's foreign ministry also chimed in. "It knows clearly in its heart what to say and what to do".

China has accused Western governments of stirring up anti-Beijing sentiment in Hong Kong, which has been roiled by months of sometimes violent protest.

It continued, "However, the N.B.A. will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues".

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