Relations between the US basketball league and Beijing have been muddled since a Houston basketball team leader supported popular protests in Hong Kong.
It's a tweet that continues to make waves. Thursday, October 17, Adam Silver, boss of the all-powerful NBA, the American professional basketball association, claimed that the league was losing money. "Substantial" after the crisis with China, born of a tweet in support of Hong Kong protesters posted by a Houston Rockets leader, Oct. 4.
"The financial consequences are quite dramatic and could continue to be so"North American league chief told health congress in New York by the magazine Time, but without specifying the extent.
Chinese companies have suspended their sponsorship and NBA broadcast rights negotiations after Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey's tweet in favor of protesters from Hong Kong spoke of the NBA's Asian tour.
"The losses are already substantial"Adam pointed out. "Our matches are still not broadcast in China as we speak and we will see what happens"he continued.
He also revealed that Chinese government officials and business leaders have called for the dismissal of Daryl Morey. "We said there was no reason for it to happen, or even to punish it"said Silver.
Hong Kong is a former British colony returned to China in 1997 and now autonomous territory. Since June, sometimes violent protesters demand more autonomy in the face of Beijing's growing control.
The government and many Chinese netizens expressed dissatisfaction after Daryl Morey's tweet, perceived as a challenge to the country's territorial integrity.
" Freedom of expression "
At the beginning of the crisis, the NBA had indicated in a statement "Deeply disappointed by the inappropriate remarks" of the Rockets leader. But the institution, lambasted by US officials for these words seeming to be right in Beijing, then said, through the voice of Adam Silver, she would not apologize and continue to support " freedom of speech ".
"We said we regret having upset our fans (but) at the same time we support Daryl Morey's freedom of expression, his right to tweet. Maybe I tried to be too diplomatic ", he added. "These regrets were not addressed to the Chinese government but to our fans, our hundreds of millions of fans in China"he said.
The controversy has sparked several reactions including NBA superstar LeBron James who ignited social networks in the United States earlier this week, many netizens accusing him of supporting China after his criticism of Daryl Morey.
Los Angeles Lakers player told reporters on Monday that Houston Rockets general manager "Did not know enough" and "Was misinformed" when he issued this message of support to the Hong Kong protesters in early October.
"So many people could have been hurt not only financially, but also physically, emotionally and spiritually. So be careful what we tweet, what we say and what we dosaid LeBron James.