“It’s Complicated.” That’s How The NBA Commissioner Would Describe His League’s Relationship With China?

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver does an interview before Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

NBA commissioner Adam Silver took great effort to describe the league’s tricky business position with China.

Two of the 2020 NBA Finals games and the recent All-Star Game were broadcast on China’s state-run television, and all games can be seen via streaming service Tencent, but the relationship remains difficult to define.

Silver told Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski on his SiriusXM show “Basketball and Beyond with Coach K” that the business export element – basketball as well as American culture — is important as the NBA recovers from the 2019 Daryl Morey incident.

Then-Rockets GM Morey – now with the 76ers – retweeted a meme featuring the words “Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong,” angering the Chinese government and suspending state-run CCTV cooperation with the NBA.

In its wake, Silver estimated up to $400 million in lost revenue but today, he’s hopeful, telling listeners SiriusXM:

“And at the end of the day, we’re a U.S. company and we’re going to follow, you know, American policy towards China. And, you know, whether it was the Trump administration, the Biden administration, at least so far, they’ve still been encouraging trade.

“And, you know, ultimately we’re an export business. We export American basketball to China, and I would say what comes with it is American culture as well, and that, you know, my personal feeling is when I look at the mission of the NBA, which is to improve people’s lives through basketball, I think continuing to operate in China is completely consistent with our mission. … .”

“I think these cultural exchanges are critically important.”

The China human-rights-abuse issue isn’t going away, however.

“It doesn’t mean we don’t speak up about what we see are, you know, things in China that are inconsistent with our values, you know, and that we don’t continue to support players’ ability to speak out on things that are important to them.”

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