NBA Won’t Let Players Speak to Reporters While in China

The NBA canceled all press availability for its players in China amid a firestorm stemming from a pro-Hong Kong protest tweet posted and deleted by Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey.

The NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets were only allowed to play their scheduled exhibition game on Thursday after the Chinese government required the NBA to cancel all media availability and forced NBA commissioner Adam Silver to cancel his pregame press conference, ESPN reports.

The Lakers and Nets are scheduled to play again on Saturday, but media availability has been canceled for that event too.

"We have decided not to hold media availability for our teams for the remainder of our trip in China," the NBA announced in a statement Friday. "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 told ESPN that it made the decision independent of Chinese officials. An NBA spokesman told the network that players are free to comment on the issue without league retribution.

Rockets rep shut down CNN reporter for asking a question:

The media policy came after a representative for the Houston Rockets silenced a CNN reporter trying to ask Rockets stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook about the fallout from the Hong Kong scandal.

CNN reporter Christina Macfarlane asked the players whether they “feel differently” about speaking out about politically sensitive issues after the NBA distanced itself from Morey’s tweet.

A team rep stopped the players from answering and told Macfarlane, “basketball questions only.”

Macfarlane was forced to give up the microphone.

The NBA later apologized to Macfarlane.

“During today’s Houston Rockets media availability, a team representative inappropriately interjected to prevent CNN’s Christina Macfarlane from receiving an answer to her question. We’ve apologized to Ms. Macfarlane as this was inconsistent with how the NBA conducts media events.”

This all started over a deleted tweet:

The controversy began when Morey posted a pro-Hong Kong protester image which he soon deleted.

The NBA issued a statement saying the tweet “deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable.”

Harden issued an apology to China and Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta made clear that Morey “does NOT speak” for the team.

The league came under fire from lawmakers for “kowtowing” to China.

The NBA is not the only American company adopting Chinese censorship policies.

Apple came under fire this week for taking down an app used by Hong Kong protesters to track police movements. The video game company Blizzard is under fire for banning a player who voiced support for the protesters.

A number of other companies have similarly kowtowed to Chinese pressure in recent years.


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