NBA commissioner Adam Silver now claims that the league never apologized to China in the wake of Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeting in favor of the Hong Kong protesters.
Speaking with TMZ Sports, Silver said that even though the NBA appeared rather conciliatory towards the Chinese government, the league never directly apologized.
“I’d hate to see this relationship end over this incident,” Silver said. “We do need to reset with the Chinese government and everybody has to establish what the rules of the road are going to be going forward.”
The original statement issued by NBA chief communications officer Mike Bass in response to Morey’s “stand with Hong Kong” tweet expressed regret for having offended Chinese fans.
“We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable,” the statement said. “While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them. We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.”
Silver told TMZ Sports that it “bothered” him people viewed the statement as apologetic to the Chinese government, arguing that he walked a tight-rope by speaking out in favor of free expression.
“It bothered me that in saying we regretted upsetting hundreds of millions of Chinese fans while at the same time supporting Daryl Morey’s speech, it bothered me, I’d say, that it was interpreted as an apology to the Chinese government,” he said. “We certainly didn’t apologize to the Chinese government. We supported Daryl from the get-go in terms of his ability to tweet. We also made clear that there were consequences from that speech. And, I think that was no doubt frustrating to a lot of people in the NBA community because it was incredibly disruptive.”
“But, you know, we accepted that,” he continued. “Daryl knew we accepted that. There was not much we could do about that. But, I think it bothered me that somehow even though we – I felt were holding the line in a way that many companies haven’t been able to in China, meaning there was no discipline of our employee, there was never a suggestion that we weren’t supporting him. In fact, I spoke out in favor of freedom of expression. Somehow, there was a sense from some people that that was the equivalent of kowtowing to the Chinese government. I certainly didn’t see it that way, but people are entitled to their opinion.”
While the initial statement appeared to apologize to the Chinese government, Silver told reporters shortly thereafter that the NBA would not stand in the way of players and coaches expressing themselves.
“It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues,” Silver said. “It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences. This is about far more than growing our business … values of equality, respect and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA — and will continue to do so. As an American-based basketball league operating globally, among our greatest contributions are these values of the game.”
Related: LA Clippers Coach Doc Rivers: Morey ‘Right In Saying’ Support Hong Kong