China vs NBA: preseason games broadcast halted

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As trade war goes on, a sport war has just begun. Chinese state broadcaster CCTV announced Tuesday it will no longer air two NBA preseason games set to be played in the country.

The decision was prompted by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s remarks in Japan following a tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey last week that supported anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong.

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

Silver said in an interview with Kyodo News on Monday that the NBA supports Morey.

The league released a statement on the controversy accepting that Morey’s remark might have “deeply offended” some fans in China, and stressing that the Rockets GM “does not represent the Rockets or the NBA.”

As the league scrambled to save face in China, lawmakers at home from both parties ripped the NBA, accusing it of putting profit over principle.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is often spotted at Rockets games, tweeted Sunday that he was “proud” to see Morey stand up for Hong Kong and accused the NBA of “shamefully retreating” in “pursuit of big $$.”

Across the aisle, two 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and former Housing Secretary Julián Castro (D), also blasted the league.

The broadcaster is also reviewing all its cooperation and exchanges involving the NBA, said the statement posted to CCTV Sports’ official social media account.

Morey’s tweet has provoked a wave of censure from Chinese companies, including a major sports merchandise retailer and news site that have halted its partnerships with the Rockets.

A schedule of CCTV programming on its website shows two NBA preseason games between the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers — one in Shenzhen and another in Shanghai — were no longer slated for broadcast.