NBA Facing 'Substantial' Losses Over China Dispute

Industry |

In early October, Houston Rockets’ manager Daryl Morey posted a tweet supporting pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, but little did he or the entire US National Basketball Association realize the detrimental effects this one tweet could have.

According to Adam Silver, "The financial consequences have been, and may continue to be, fairly dramatic."

Chinese firms have suspended sponsorship and telecast deals, and, in addition, the state-run broadcaster CCTV and Tencent Holdings which streams NBA games in China said they would not be broadcasting Rockets’ matches any longer. And all of this isn’t all! Chinese sportswear brand Li-Ning, the club’s sponsor in China, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, and the Chinese Basketball Association suspended their co-operation with the Houston Rockets.

Mr Silver said: "The losses have already been substantial.

"Our games are not back on the air in China as we speak, and we'll see what happens next," he told Time magazine's Time 100 Health Summit in New York.

Huge Market

With 300 million people playing basketball in China, according to the NBA, it is easily the country’s most popular support, and the NBA is extremely popular in China with around 800 million fans supporting millions of dollars of business. 

The NBA opened its first office in Hong Kong in 1992, and the game became vastly more popular when the Houston Rockets signed Chinese player and eight-time NBA All-Star Yao Ming in 2002. The Rockets are hugely followed all throughout China.

In 2008, NBA China was launched, which conducts the league's business in the country. Now, according to Forbes, they are worth more than $4 billion.

Mr Morey's simple yet monumental tweet said, "Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong." The Chinese government has gone so far as to call for Mr. Morey to be fired, but Mr. Silver says he will do nothing of the sort. Mr. Morey has every right to express his own opinion.

"We were being asked to fire him by the Chinese government, by the parties we dealt with, government and business," Silver said. "We said there's no chance that's happening. There's no chance we'll even discipline him."

"The values of the NBA - the American values, we are an American business - travel with us wherever we go. And one of those values is free expression."

Because of the Chinese regime’s authoritarian nature, Mr Silver can understand why some believe the NBA should withdraw from all activities in China, but he really feels that "constructive engagement, especially in sports, is very positive."