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A reporter with CNN was stopped on Thursday as she tried to ask James Harden and Russell Westbrook about the ongoing China controversy in which the league has been ensnared.
Journalist Christina Macfarlane was in the middle of asking the Houston Rockets stars whether they were thinking twice about speaking out on political issues following the NBA’s response to a pro-Hong Kong tweet sent by a Rockets manager at a presser after the Toronto Raptors and Rockets game in Ch??-ku, Saitama City, Saitama, Japan.
Someone offcamera told her the query was not appropriate. Her response: “It is a legitimate question. This is an event that has happened this week [in] the NBA.”
Offscreen, the same person said that the question Macfarlane was asking had been answered, to which Macfarlane responded, “This particular question has not been answered.” Before someone offscreen took her microphone away, Macfarlane again prompted Harden, an often outspoken player on political and social issues, to respond.
The NBA has found itself engulfed in controversy after Rockets general manager Daryl Morey sent out a seemingly innocuous tweet in which he supported the pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong. “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” Morey wrote on Oct. 4, accompanied by an image.
The tweet was quickly followed by one from Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, who wrote, “Listen….@dmorey does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets. Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the @NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization.”
Two days later, the Chinese Basketball Association announced it would end its business with the team, and a China state broadcaster, CCTV 5, and Tencent Sports both declared they would suspend airing Rockets Games from their platforms.
The NBA responded with a statement the next day, saying, “We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable. While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them.” It added, “We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.”
The statement, and a follow-up by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver that reiterated NBA employees’ right to free speech, has been the target of ire from those who see it as kowtowing to Chinese authorities at a time when Hong Kong protestors are fighting to preserve their autonomy.
China also abruptly canceled all media access and events surrounding a preseason game on Thursday between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets in Shanghai. The two teams will meet again on Saturday in the Chinese city of Shenzhen. It remains unclear if the media will have access to players and coaches before or after the game.
China accounts for a growing number of NBA viewers, including the 800 million that watched NBA games on multiple platforms in the country last year. Earlier this year, the league extended a deal with Tencent worth a reported $1.5 billion.
Journalist gets quickly shut down when she asked James Harden, Russell Westbrook if they would refrain from speaking out on politics/social justice after China debacle… pic.twitter.com/VkXSWo0N0s
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) October 10, 2019
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Thomas Brodie Sangster