The Chinese government did not allow players and coaches from the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets to talk with reporters before or after Thursday's pre-season game (Friday AEDT) in Shanghai, the latest salvo in an increasingly contentious situation.
A rift between the NBA and China has been simmering since the Houston Rockets' general manager Daryl Morey last week tweeted his support for protesters in Hong Kong.
Lakers superstar LeBron James drives to the basket against the Nets.Credit:Getty
The game was played as scheduled, with LeBron James scoring 20 points in 25 minutes on court in the Lakers' 114-111 loss to the Nets. But the game, which wasn't seen on television in China, was largely a sideshow to the main story that continues to unfold.
The country's state broadcaster announced on Tuesday it would not air any of the NBA pre-season games being played in the country this week (the Lakers and Nets play again on Saturday in Shenzhen).
According to The Athletic's Bill Oram, who is in Shanghai, a pre-game news conference with NBA commissioner Adam Silver also was scrubbed.
The Chinese government had previously cancelled an NBA Cares event to benefit the Special Olympics in Shanghai along with a fan event ahead of the game. Banners promoting Thursday's game were also taken down.
NBA players typically speak to reporters both before and after games.
Despite the controversies, fans still attended the game in Shanghai.Credit:AP
In a second statement on Tuesday, Silver declared his support for the free-speech rights of the league's players and executives, which drew the ire of the Chinese government.
"We are not apologising for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression," Silver said on Tuesday at a news conference in Japan. "I regret … that so many people are upset including millions and millions of our fans.
"At the end of the day, we come with basketball as an opportunity to sell dreams, sell hopes. That we are causing disruption in people's lives and that we are causing disharmony, that's something I regret."
Nearly all of the NBA's Chinese business partners have publicly announced that they are ending or suspending their relationships with the league.
Protests have taken place at several exhibition games in the United States, as well.
On Tuesday, a married couple was removed from a game between the Philadelphia 76ers and Guangzhou Loong-Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association after they held up signs reading "Free Hong Kong" and "Free HK" and then shouted the slogans when their signs were taken away by security.
On Wednesday night, at least five vocal demonstrations broke out before and during the first half of the Wizards' match-up against the Loong-Lions in Washington.
According to the Los Angeles Times, a man wearing a Rockets jersey was arrested in China for posting a photo of himself about to burn a Chinese flag with a comment: "I live and die with the team."
The Washington Post
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