NBA drops media events in China row

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Sport -

Shang­hai: The Na­tional Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (NBA) said on Fri­day it had can­celled all re­main­ing press events for its cur­rent China tour, cit­ing the “com­pli­cated and un­prece­dented” con­tro­versy over Hong Kong protests and free speech.

Two pre-sea­son ex­hi­bi­tion games in China be­tween the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers and Brook­lyn Nets have been over­shad­owed by a Chi­nese back­lash against a Hous­ton Rock­ets ex­ec­u­tive’s ex­pres­sion of sup­port last Fri­day for Hong Kong pro-democ­racy protests.

“We have de­cided not to hold media avail­abil­ity for our teams for the re­main­der of our trip in China,” the NBA said in a state­ment.

“They have been placed into a com­pli­cated and un­prece­dented sit­u­a­tion while abroad and we be­lieve it would be un­fair to ask them to ad­dress these mat­ters in real time.”

Hous­ton Rock­ets gen­eral man­ager Daryl Morey sparked the dis­pute with a tweet ex­press­ing sol­i­dar­ity with pro­test­ers in Hong Kong who have staged months of in­creas­ingly vi­o­lent demon­stra­tions against China’s con­trol of the semi-au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

The NBA’s Chi­nese spon­sors dropped lu­cra­tive part­ner­ship deals in protest, and the affair quickly bal­looned into yet an­other ir­ri­tant in the US-China re­la­tion­ship when lead­ing Amer­i­can politi­cians urged the NBA to ditch all ac­tiv­i­ties in China in re­tal­i­a­tion.

An NBA rep­re­sen­ta­tive told AFP that the sec­ond game be­tween the Lak­ers and Nets, set for Satur­day night in the south­ern city of Shen­zhen, was still ex­pected to pro­ceed as planned. The teams flew to Shen­zhen ear­lier Fri­day af­ter playing their first game in Shang­hai the night be­fore.

The Shang­hai game pro­ceeded smoothly de­spite the rag­ing con­tro­versy, as a nearca­pac­ity crowd of 18,000 Chi­nese fans cheered wildly for Lak­ers su­per­star LeBron James and his co­horts. Broad­cast­ers had ear­lier dropped plans to air the two games in China to protest Morey’s tweet and the NBA’s sub­se­quent de­fence.

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