NBA commissioner Adam Silver held a press conference Tuesday prior to a Rockets-Raptors preseason game in Tokyo, addressing the political firestorm touched off by a tweet from Houston general manager Daryl Morey in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
Silver said the League will protect its employees’ right to free speech, to which the Chinese government and business community voiced their “strong dissatisfaction.”
Silver and the NBA were caught off guard by the main state TV broadcaster in China cancelling the broadcast of two preseason games scheduled for this week in Shanghai and Shenzhen.
Per The NY Times:
“I think it’s unfortunate,” Silver said. “But if that’s the consequences of us adhering to our values, we still feel it’s critically important we adhere to those values.”
The two games scheduled for this week feature LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers against the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets are owned by Joe Tsai, the billionaire co-founder of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. In a lengthy Facebook post, Tsai criticized Morey’s tweet as damaging to the N.B.A. in China.
Silver issued a new written statement on Tuesday morning which said in part: “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 N.B.A. to adjudicate those differences.”
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. We simply could not operate that way.”
Silver was more blunt during his news conference: “We will protect our employees’ freedom of speech.”