Chinese TV drops National Basketball Association games over Hong Kong tweet

Protesters receive tear bomb shot by police during a demonstrationin Hong Kong on Oct. 6 2019

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Silver said it would be appropriate for people involved with the league "to be sensitive" to different cultures when tweeting or communicating.

A string of key Chinese sponsors have since distanced themselves from the United States organisation, including the country's largest sportswear maker and its second-biggest dairy firm.

National Basketball Association (NBA) commissioner Adam Silver yesterday said that the league is not apologizing for Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's since-deleted tweet showing support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, even after China's state broadcaster canceled plans to show a pair of pre-season games later this week.

Silver was more blunt during his news conference: "We will protect our employees' freedom of speech".

Morey's tweet shattered some China sponsorships for the Rockets, retired Chinese star Yao Ming's former club.

No one has been killed in several months of protests in Hong Kong, although scores - mostly protesters and journalists - have been hurt. It's not a new stance for Silver; he's referenced how basketball now can be similar to the phenomenon known as "pingpong diplomacy" - when table tennis players from the USA and China played in the early 1970s and essentially began a major mending of relations between the two countries.

"We're strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver's claim to support Morey's right to freedom of expression", CCTV said in a statement obtained by USA Today.

"We believe that any comments that challenge national sovereignty and social stability are not within the scope of freedom of speech", the station said on its social media account.

A ceremonial NBA Cares event for an educational center in Shanghai with the Nets was canceled Tuesday, though the Nets participated in other events as scheduled. "But if that's the consequences of us adhering to our values, we still feel it's critically important we adhere to those values".

However, Silver also said the situation has damaged the league's business relationships in China.

"This issue may not die down so quickly", he said.

Silver also said he hopes basketball can continue be something that unifies the countries.

Silver issued a new written statement on Tuesday morning which said in part: "It is inevitable that people around the world - including from America and China - will have different viewpoints over different issues".

The backlash intensified in the wake of Mr Silver's statement, as multiple Chinese companies such as sportswear brand Anta and dairy company Mengniu responded by suspending partnerships with the league. Senator Ted Cruz said the league was guilty of "assisting Chinese censorship" by initially saying it was "regrettable" that Morey's tweet had caused offence in China. "It knows clearly in its heart what to say and what to do".

The strong reactions to Morey's tweet underscore China's sensitivity about foreign attitudes toward the ongoing Hong Kong protests that have grown into violence in the semi-autonomous territory. "And for an American organisation to help the most brutal of regimes silence dissent in pursuit of profit is appalling".

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