Daryl Morey was at the center of the NBA's most recent controversy involving a tweet supporting Hong Kong's struggle against China.
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
NBA commissioner: Not league's job to weigh in on countries' political systems, values
Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - October 8, 2019 - 8:54pm

MANILA, Philippines — The National Basketball Association will not police the stances of its players, employees, and team owners, commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday, adding it is not the league's job to adjudicate on issues.

Silver issued the statement amid backlash over a tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morley indicating support for protests in Hong Kong that started as opposition to a since-shelved bill that would allow extradition to China.

Rockets superstar James Harden apologized on behalf of his general manager on Monday. “We love China. We love playing there. I know for both of us individually we go there once or twice a year," he bared. 

"They show us the most support and love. So we appreciate them as a fan base and we love everything they’re about and we appreciate the support that they give us individually and as an organization.”

The NBA initially acknowledged that Morley's tweet, since deletedm 'deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable'. The statement itself also generated backlash for seeming to try to appease China, a huge market for the league.

"I recognize our initial statement left people angered, confused or unclear on who we are or what the NBA stands for. Let me be more clear," Silver said Tuesday.

He was careful to add the caveat that the NBA would not want to police its own personnel when it came to their views, saying, "the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way."

Former Chinese star Yao Ming – a Basketball Hall of Famer – spent his NBA career with Houston.

Long relationship with China

The relationship between the NBA and China among other things consists of media rights, streaming, merchandise sales to the tune of a billion-dollar enterprise.  

"Over the last three decades, the NBA has developed a great affinity for the people of China," Silver said. "At the same time, we recognize that our two countries have different political systems and beliefs. And like many global brands, we bring our business to places with different political systems around the world."

Former NBA commissioner David Stern inked a deal almost 30 years ago with Chinese television to play NBA games on a tape-delayed basis.

League teams have also been travelling to China for exhibition or preseason games for the past decade. Some of these games were even scheduled for the coming weeks, making Morey's statement rather untimely. 

And the NBA has long been an international league, with 108 players coming from outside of the United States at the start of the 2018 season. 

This diversity is what Silver said was one of the league's strengths: "With that diversity comes the belief that whatever our differences, we respect and value each other; and, what we have in common, including a belief in the power of sports to make a difference, remains our bedrock principle."

"Basketball runs deep in the hearts and minds of our two peoples," Silver said. "At a time when divides between nations grow deeper and wider, we believe sports can be a unifying force that focuses on what we have in common as human beings rather than our differences."

The new NBA season kicks off on October 22, or October 23 in Manila time.

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