All media events such as news conferences have been cancelled inside the arena hosting Thursday’s NBA preseason game in China between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets, though the matchup itself remains on as scheduled.
The decision to cancel media availabilities is the latest move by Chinese officials in an effort to show their displeasure with a since-deleted tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. The tweet, expressing support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, set off a rift that has completely overshadowed the NBA’s annual trip to China.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver defended Morey’s right to freely express himself. China’s latest response essentially means the league and its players will not be able to freely express themselves at Mercedes-Benz Arena, which was going to be the site of a news conference by Silver and press conferences likely featuring Lakers star LeBron James, Nets guard Kyrie Irving, Los Angeles coach Frank Vogel and Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson.
The relationship between the NBA and China has been beyond strained since Morey sent the tweet, which was deleted. Multiple Chinese corporations suspended their business deals with the league, several events leading up to the game were called off by Chinese officials — and government officials made clear that they are most displeased.
In the U.S., there was governmental reaction as well leading up to the game.
On Wednesday in Washington, a bipartisan group of lawmakers — including the rare alignment of Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York — sent a letter to Silver saying the NBA should show the “courage and integrity” to stand up to the Chinese government. They asked the NBA to, among other things, suspend activities in China until what they called the selective treatment against the Rockets ends.
“You have more power to take a stand than most of the Chinese government’s targets and should have the courage and integrity to use it,” the lawmakers told Silver.
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Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press