Even after a nearly month-long battle, China is still not letting it go.
Chinese state television did not air any of the NBA’s opening night games on Tuesday night, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. The NBA’s streaming partner, Tencent, cut its schedule down to only include the Los Angeles Lakers-Los Angeles Clippers game, too, severely limiting options for Chinese fans to watch the first real action of the 2019-20 season.
The move, in reality, is not that surprising following the seemingly never-ending conflict between the NBA and China — which stemmed from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s seven-word tweet supporting pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
China did not take Morey’s tweet well, and even pressured the league to fire him over it. They have also cut all ties with the Rockets and suspended numerous business deals with the NBA, something that commissioner Adam Silver said has caused “substantial” financial consequences for the league. Several teams have even explored scenarios where the salary cap drops 10 to 15 percent as a result of the feud.
CCTV issued a warning to Silver on Saturday, too, saying he could face “retribution” for defaming China and supporting Morey in an editorial. It also claimed he “fabricated lies out of nothing and has sought to paint China as unforgiving” in order to “please some American politicians.”
While most of the NBA’s opening night content was tough to find in China, the international conflict was front and center in the United States.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) penned an Op-Ed in USA Today on Tuesday morning urging the NBA to stand up to China. Shaquille O’Neal then supported Morey on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” pregame show, saying he was right to speak up for what he believed in.
A Hong Kong flag was even flying in the background of the TNT show, which was broadcasting live outside of the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Thousands of “Fight For Freedom, Stand With Hong Kong” shirts were reportedly being handed out to fans around the arena, too.
The NBA declined to comment to ESPN about CCTV’s decision not to air the games, something the network usually does on opening night.
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