Six months ago, China brought the NBA to heel over a tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey which showed his support for democracy in Hong Kong.
Following the tweet, Beijing severed ties with 11 of the NBA’s official Chinese partners, canceled endorsement deals, forced stores to stop selling Rockets merchandise, and refused to air games over CCTV.
LA Lakers star LeBron James – the league’s biggest star and one of the world’s most dominant athletes – criticized Morey for not being “educated on the situation” and warned that freedom of speech can sometimes have “a lot of negatives that come with it.” James said that “so many people could have been harmed” by Morey’s tweet, not just financially, but “physically, emotionally [and] spiritually” as well.
Six months later, China is still bitter – and continues to refuse to air NBA games from China Central Television, despite the fact that Michael Ma – the son of CCTV co-founder Ma Guoli – was appointed as CEO of NBA China.
On Tuesday, China’s state mouthpiece the Global Times published an article saying that Ma’s appointment was nice, but the NBA needs to ‘properly handle’ Morey over his support of the Hong Kong protests last year.
“if it wants to win its way back to the Chinese mainland market, it should properly handle Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey — who tweeted in support of Hong Kong rioters last year,” writes the Times, adding that the NBA has “found itself stuck in the public opinion battlefield between China and the US, as bilateral ties remain tense amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”
If the Morey incident is properly handled, the NBA, in the long run, could demonstrate that China welcomes foreign businesses to invest and make money in the country, as long as they respect the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Su said.
The appointment came a day after CCTV issued a solemn statement on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo, denying any plan to resume airing NBA games. CCTV has not broadcast any NBA games since October 2019.
Chinese netizens commented on the NBA official reshuffle, and many said they could not care less about the US league, unless Morey is punished for his misbehavior. –Global Times
Chinese communist tabloid wants Houston Rockets Daryl Morey “properly handled”for his tweet supporting Democracy in Hong Kong. CCTV says won’t show games until then. Do they want him to be fired or worse?#CCPVirus #CCPThugs #WeStandWithHK #BoycottBeijing https://t.co/dGUK1sGID6
— 🇹🇼Kyle Bass🇹🇼 (@Jkylebass) May 13, 2020
Of note, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver admitted last October that China insisted the league fire Morey.
“We made clear that we were being asked to fire him, by the Chinese government, by the parties we dealt with, government and business,” Silver said. “We said there’s no chance that’s happening. There’s no chance we’ll even discipline him.”
Speaking at the TIME 100 Health Summit, Silver noted that “The losses have already been substantial,” adding “Our games are not back on the air in China as we speak, and we’ll see what happens next.”
Maybe Xi will hire LeBron for a few more CCP sound bytes in the hopes of getting Morey fired (or worse).