Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

NBA Facing Blowback In China

The National Basketball Association had some of the most lucrative contracts in sports with Chinese companies. These went beyond just broadcasting rights, or holding games.

After a recent tweet from a team executive within the league, however, those partnerships have dwindled. And in may cases, are now nonexistent.

That broadcasting deal was an impressive one. The NBA and Chinese broadcaster Tencent recently announced a $1.5 billion deal that ran through the 2024-25 season according to CNBC. Now, Tencent has announced that it has suspended its broadcasts, as have CCTV and Vivo. And 11 Chinese official partners (Ctrip.com, Anta Sports, Changhong, Meiling, Dicos, EHi Car Rental, Master Kong, China Mengniu Dairy, Migu Video, WuZun and Xiaoyin Technology) have ended or suspended ties with the league.

It all stems from a tweet made last week by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. Though it was quickly deleted, the tweet showed support for the ongoing protests in Hong Kong against the Chinese government.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver attempted to handle damage control this week during a press conference, ahead of the NBA’s planned games this week in Shanghai and Shenzhen. On Tuesday, Silver said, ““I think as a values-based organization that I want to make it clear … that Daryl Morey is supported in terms of his ability to exercise his freedom of expression,” according to the New York Post.

CCTV responded with a statement of its own. From CBS: “We are strongly dissatisfied and opposed Adam (Silver)’s claim to support Morey’s rights of free expression. We believe that any speech that challenges national sovereignty and social stability is not within the scope of freedom of speech,” the network said. “To this end, CCTV Sports Channel decided to immediately suspend the current broadcast arrangements of the NBA preseason (China games) and immediately investigate all cooperation and exchanges involving the NBA.”

The response from the rest of social media, not to mention China, has been swift. Response has come from celebrities, media, politicians, and other pundits.

We have also used Social Studio to assist in gauging what the conversation has been like on social media as a whole. And as of Wednesday afternoon, of the 433,000-plus posts on social media mentioning ‘NBA’ and ‘China’ have been overwhelmingly negative.

Much of the conversation has centered on the NBA’s reluctance to fully support Morey. And from an image standpoint, many tweets seem to be criticizing the NBA for not severing ties with Chinese businesses.

A closer exam at the words being used, through Social Studio, sees a variety of topics. And this might not clearly show the breadth of the situation as a whole.

We’ll keep monitoring the story from our perch on the fourth floor of the Communications building in Knoxville.