Silver also says the league is “apologetic” over the outcome and reaction that followed Houston general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet showing support for protesters in Hong Kong, but will continue to back Morey’s right to freedom of expression.
Silver says “we are not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression.” He added that he “regrets” how so many Chinese people and NBA fans were upset by the now-deleted tweet.
Silver said it would be appropriate for people involved with the league “to be sensitive” to different cultures when tweeting or communicating. He spoke in Tokyo before a preseason game between the NBA champion Toronto Raptors and the Rockets — the team at the center of this China squabble.
His comments came as Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said it will no longer air two NBA preseason games set to be played in the country.
In a statement, CCTV indicated the decision was prompted by Silver’s remarks in Japan following a tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey last week that supported anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong.
The broadcaster is also reviewing all its cooperation and exchanges involving the NBA, said the statement posted to CCTV Sports’ official social media account.
CCTV said “we’re strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver’s claim to support Morey’s right to freedom of expression.”
Chinese smartphone maker Vivo joined other businesses in saying Tuesday that it will suspend it’s business with the NBA over Morey’s comments and the NBA’s reaction. Vivo was a sponsor for the Lakers-Nets games in China.
On Friday, Morey posted a tweet with an image that read: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” He later deleted the post and tweeted an apology. That came after Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta publicly clarified the team does not take political positions.
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. China has accused foreign parties in the United States and elsewhere of encouraging the demonstrations.
The protests were sparked by a proposed extradition law that would have allowed suspects to be sent to China to face trial. Activists saw that as a threat to the legal rights that Hong Kong residents have under the current “one country, two systems” framework.
On Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said ordinary people have already expressed their position.
Geng said, “How can it be possible to carry out exchanges and cooperation with China without knowing China’s public opinion?”
He added that the “NBA’s cooperation with China has been going on for quite a long time, so what should be said and what should be done, they know best.”
But Silver said the league “will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues.”
Silver’s statement was sent out shortly before he was to hold a news conference in Tokyo.
Silver said “it is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences.”
Silver also responded to those criticizing the league’s approach over the last several days, including some U.S. lawmakers.
“This is about far more than growing our business. … Values of equality, respect and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA — and will continue to do so,” Silver said. “As an American-based basketball league operating globally, among our greatest contributions are these values of the game.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.