Commissioner Adam Silver Addresses NBA Relationship With China
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – NBA commissioner Adam Silver addressed the league’s fractured relationship with China. In an appearance with CNN contributor Bob Costas, Silver discussed the fallout from losing millions of advertising dollars in China and the league’s position after becoming a target for political groups that have taken issue with the league’s ongoing business relationship with the country.
The NBA first found itself on unstable ground in China after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey sent a tweet supporting protestors in Hong Kong. After the tweet, NBA broadcasts were pulled from the Chinese Central Television system which accesses more than a billion viewers worldwide.
Morey walked back the tweet, but much of the financial damage was already done. Then, after backing off from the stance, the NBA was criticized heavily by politicians and activists for “kowtowing” to China.
NBA Continues To Operate In China
In his interview with Silver, Costas asked how a league that bills itself a progressive on equal rights issues could continue its relationship with “a major and brutal human rights abuser like China?”
Silver said international business agreements over politics should be left to the United States government.
“There are definitely trade-offs there,” Silver said. “And somebody could say given the system of government in China, the NBA should make a decision not to operate there. I would only say that at the end of the day, I think those are decisions for our government in terms of where American businesses should operate.”
The NBA continues to have games broadcast on Tencent, part of a multimedia conglomerate in China that recently signed a five-year $1.5 billion deal to air games in the country.
“We could’ve decided because they took us off CCTV that therefore we should take our ball and go home and stop operating there,” Silver said. “The fact is our games continue to be streamed on Tencent in China and we’ve continued there.”
Despite the ongoing criticism from politicians at home, Silver said he believes the league’s presence in China can be good for international relationships.
“Until very recent history, at the encouragement of the State Departments of various administrations on both sides of the aisle, it was viewed as a really positive thing that we were exporting American values to China through the NBA.”
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