NBA commissioner Adam Silver addressed several topics ahead of Game 1 of the Finals between the Celtics and Warriors, including the league’s sometimes rocky relationship with China.
According to Silver, the NBA’s strained relationship with China has cost the league hundreds of millions of dollars.
He did not offer a specific solution, but said there is a cost for freedom of speech. And clearly, the NBA supports that right.
“Every Fortune 500 company is doing business in China,” Silver told reporters. “We have to look to the U.S. government for direction.”
The NBA’s relationship with China has been under fire for several years, mostly due to accusations of China’s human rights abuses. Former Rockets GM Daryl Morey also caused a stir by tweeting support for Hong Kong’s fight for democracy several years ago. Morey, now the 76ers head of basketball operations, quickly deleted the tweet.
But China’s state-run broadcast network refused to carry NBA games the rest of that season.
This season, former Celtics center Enes Freedom (then Enes Kanter) spoke out about China’s alleged abuse and slavery of Uyghur Muslims, and China immediately stopped broadcasting games involving the Celtics. Freedom has since been traded and waived, and enters the offseason as a free agent.
The NBA agreed to a five-year deal worth more than $1 billion with China-owned streaming service Tencent in 2019. Tencent represents the NBA’s largest partnership outside the United States.