Silver says NBA already feels financial pain of China issues

Field Level Media

October 18, 2019 at 1:25 am.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver says the league is ready to deal with the financial consequences of its recent controversies in China, and added that the NBA already has experienced “fairly dramatic” economic fallout.

Speaking at the inaugural Time 100 Health Summit in New York on Thursday, Silver said that while China has yet to put NBA games back on the country’s airwaves and losses have been substantial, the league will cope with whatever ramifications come from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s Oct. 4 tweet in which he expressed support for Hong Kong resident’s desire for independence.

“I don’t know where we go from here,” Silver told “Good Morning America” co-host Robin Roberts in his first U.S. interview about the league’s conflict with China since he returned home from the country. “The financial consequences have been and may continue to be fairly dramatic.”

In the days following Morey’s tweet, Chinese state television decided to not air the Brooklyn Nets-Lakers preseason games played in China, and numerous Chinese companies suspended business with the NBA.

Morey has not been disciplined for his since-deleted tweet that included a logo and the words, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta spoke out against Morey and his tweet, and Rockets star James Harden said afterward, “We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there,” while standing next to teammate Russell Westbrook in Tokyo.

One of the criticisms of the NBA in days following Morey’s tweet has been what critics view as the league’s softened stance in which it is trying to appease both sides of the issue. While the league and some players apologized for the backlash to Morey’s tweet, the league also backed his ability to take a stand on the issue without speaking for the team.

Among those to lob criticism is President Donald Trump, claiming San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich and Golden State coach Steve Kerr “don’t want to say anything bad” about China.

Another issue was the league’s use of the word “regrettable” in its initial statement — a word Silver contends referenced the Chinese government’s reaction, not Morey’s tweet itself.

When talking about the media’s coverage of the controversy on Thursday, Silver said “frankly (it) was confusing to me when I got home (from China). Only because I had thought we’d taken a principled position. I thought we hadn’t so-called acquiesced to the Chinese.”

“Maybe I was trying too hard to be a diplomat,” Silver continued. “I didn’t see it as my role as the commissioner of the NBA to weigh in on the substance of the protest, but to say here’s this platform” for free expression.

Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous region in China, is in the midst of months-long protests — sometimes violent — with Beijing sensitive to foreign influence on the unrest.