NBA Doomed in China?


Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey posted an image of support for the Hong Kong protests on Twitter last Friday, and by Sunday his job was in jeopardy. On Tuesday, all NBA games were pulled from Chinese television, and Houston Rockets products were removed from online stores. The future of the sports league—the most popular in China—seems to be in serious doubt in the country.
Meanwhile, the NBA itself has gone through a cycle of apology for Morey’s tweet, joining a number of Western firms surrendering to Chinese censorship demands—and prompting negative coverage in the United States. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued a new statement on Tuesday to dampen American anger, but he has only succeeded in stoking more in China.
How did this start? The anger over Morey’s tweet seems to have started with a popular Weibo account and been amplified by state media. These reactions and political discourse aren’t driven directly from the top: State media instead respond to online outrage by fueling it. Online, people aren’t able to de-escalate without exposing themselves politically. This cycle has forced other companies to start cutting ties with the NBA in order to avoid potential blowback themselves.

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