Adam Silver Defends Free Speech as China Pulls NBA’s Games From CCTV

CCTV says it won't show a pair of upcoming preseason games between the Lakers and Nets

NBA commissioner Adam Silver at a press conference prior to the NBA Japan Games 2019. (KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty)
NBA commissioner Adam Silver at a press conference prior to the NBA Japan Games 2019. (KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty)
By Evan Bleier / October 8, 2019 10:36 am

Amidst the fallout in China from Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s pro-Hong Kong tweet Friday night, NBA commissioner Adam Silver is defending the league executive’s right to free speech.

Speaking Tuesday at a news conference in Tokyo before a preseason game between the Rockets and Raptors, Silver said the NBA was “apologetic” Chinese officials and fans were upset by the tweet but stood by Morey’s right to express himself.

“Daryl Morey, as general manager of the Houston Rockets, enjoys that right as one of our employees,” Silver said. “What I also tried to suggest is that I understand there are consequences from his freedom of speech and we will have to live with those consequences.”

In the wake of Morey’s since-deleted tweet and the NBA’s response, China’s state-run CCTV network has announced it will not be showing a pair of upcoming preseason games between the Lakers and Nets which are set to take place in China this week.

“We’re strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver’s claim to support Morey’s right to freedom of expression,” CCTV said in a statement. “We believe that any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability are not within the scope of freedom of speech.”

While Silver is defending the Houston GM, his player, All-Star guard James Harden, is not.

With Russell Westbrook by his side, Harden voiced his support for China and offered an apology for his GM’s tweet. “We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there,” Harden said. “For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love.”

It will be interesting to see if LeBron James, who has spoken out about a number of free-speech related issues in the U.S. but also has significant financial ties to China thanks to Nike, will weigh in on the matter.

Given the developing situation, there is some concern the Lakers/Nets games will be canceled outright instead of just being pulled from CCTV.

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