In a surprising (for me) turn of events, NBA commissioner Adam Silver released a further statement late yesterday reaffirming Daryl Morey’s right to free expression, and that the league will not suppress or regulate the speech of its teams and employees. Later on in an interview, Silver recognizes that expression has consequences, but the values of the NBA are non-negotiable.
For a league that’s been pilloried by both sides of the political spectrum for kowtowing to China and seemingly choosing the profitable bottom line over American ideals, the statement by Silver puts a strong rebuttal to those criticisms. Prominent figures within the NBA and its media partners in America have been dancing around the issue to avoid further stoking the ire of the Chinese, so it is good to see the commissioner himself be so unequivocal.
Of course, as Silver himself stated, there are consequences. Apparently China remains unappeased with the situation, and Silver’s remarks is seen from their perspective as defiance. CCTV, the broadcast partner for the preseason games played in China - and de-facto state TV for the communist party, have announced they will no longer be showing the games; more Chinese companies have severed commercial ties with the league. It appears China will not accept any less from the NBA than a sincere apology and the strongest rebuke and condemnation of Daryl Morey: make him persona non grata.
This whole incident, stemming from a simple tweet of solidarity with the Hong Kong people by Morey, is far from over. It’ll be intriguing to see how Silver and the NBA thread the fine needle: uphold the bedrock values of an American company, while repair the damage with China, a country with an obvious different set of values.