Chinese state media slammed the NBA for an "about-face" Tuesday after the body said it would not apologize for a tweet by the Houston Rockets General Manager supporting pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
The US league has drawn fire for from Chinese broadcasters, sponsors and social media after Daryl Morey tweeted a message Friday saying "Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong."
After the NBA called Morey's tweet "inappropriate" in a statement on Chinese social media platform Weibo, league commissioner Adam Silver insisted at a press conference in Tokyo on Tuesday that the league would not apologize and would "support freedom of expression".
In an editorial, the state-run China Daily accused the NBA of a U-turn and said Silver's remarks showed the league's earlier "honey-mouthed" statements had been "nothing but an attempt to prevent the hemorrhaging of profits made in China."
It added that "Silver's about face, which will definitely give a shot to the arms of the rioters in Hong Kong, shows his organization is willing to be another handy tool for US interference in the special administrative region."
Beijing has often accused foreign forces of fuelling the unrest in Hong Kong.
Silver said he hoped to discuss the situation with Chinese officials in Shanghai, where the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers are set to play an exhibition game today.
But a day after the NBA cancelled a Nets publicity event in the city, NBA representatives said that it had scrapped a similar public event involving the Lakers.
Separate training sessions by the teams yesterday that media had been invited to were also abruptly declared closed.
Crews at Shanghai's Mercedes-Benz arena, where the Nets and Lakers were to tip-off, were seen yesterday morning removing the logos of the NBA, Nets, Lakers, and corporate sponsors from lamp-posts and walls in the area.
Speculation has grown in the US that the games themselves –- another is to be held in the southern city of Shenzhen on Saturday -- could be cancelled.
The NBA has built a lucrative Chinese fanbase in recent years thanks in part to the popularity of former Rockets centre Yao Ming.
But after Morey's tweet, state broadcaster CCTV and Chinese internet company Tencent both suspended broadcasts of Rockets games and two preseason NBA games in China.
The Chinese Basketball Association, which Yao now heads, has also cut off ties with the Rockets.*AFP
back to top