Shaq Defends Daryl Morey as China Blacks Out NBA Season Opener

China's CCTV hasn't shown games since Morey's pro-Hong Kong tweet

Shaq Defends Daryl Morey as China Blacks Out NBA Season Opener
Shaquille O'Neal speaks onstage during the 2019 NBA Awards. Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Turner Sports)
Getty Images for Turner Sports
By Evan Bleier / October 23, 2019 9:17 am

The NBA season has started but the drama from a pro-Hong Kong tweet that launched 1,000 op-ed pieces is not even close to over.

Addressing Rocket GM Daryl Morey’s tweet about Hong Kong and the ensuing fallout it caused in China — including preseason games being pulled from state-run CCTV —  on TNT’s pregame show on the opening night of the NBA season, Shaquille O’Neal defended the right to free speech and the Houston executive.

“One of our best values here in America is free speech — we’re allowed to say what we want to say and we are allowed to speak out on injustices and that’s just how it goes and if people don’t understand that that’s something they have to deal with,” O’Neal said. “It was unfortunate for both parties, and you’ve got people speaking out about something they don’t know what they’re talking about. Daryl Morey was right — whenever you see something going on anywhere in the world, you should have the right to say, ‘That’s not right.’”

China’s CCTV, which hasn’t shown games since Morey’s tweet, went against its annual tradition and did not show any NBA games on the opening day of the new season, including the season opener between the reigning champion Toronto Raptors and the New Orleans Pelicans.

Though the Pelicans-Raptors game wasn’t shown in China, the NBA’s Chinese streaming partner, Tencent, did show the Lakers taking on the Clippers in the second game of the night at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Outside of the arena, a group of protesters gathered in support of Hong Kong and handed out more than 10,000 t-shirts.

“Our First Amendment rights to free speech — so if you have a government that’s not the United States telling us we can’t talk, what’s the point of having a government?” an organizer going by the name “MWG” told ESPN. “What’s the point of having a First Amendment, right? We’re not saying that we’re trying to do anything other than show solidarity. We’re not trying to protest. We just want to show the NBA and show foreign governments that they can’t censor us.”

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