The Chinese government is denying NBA Commissioner Adam Silver‘s claim that they asked him to have Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey fired after Morey tweeted in support of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, the Associated Press reports.
The “Chinese government never posed this requirement,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told the AP.
During a press conference on Thursday, Silver said that the league had been “asked to fire (Morey) by the Chinese government, by the parties we dealt with, government and business.”
Silver added: “There’s no chance that’s happening. There’s no chance we’ll even discipline him.”
The commissioner faced heavy criticism — from fans and lawmakers alike — for his initial response to Morey’s tweet in which he called the tweet “regrettable,” but has since doubled down on his support of Morey and his right to free speech.
The NBA suffered major fallout after Morey’s tweet as several Chinese companies including the Chinese Basketball Association and state-run CCTV decided to cut ties with the league.
Morey’s Oct. 4 tweet, which has long since been deleted, included “fight for freedom,” a phrase that was adopted by Hong Kong protestors.
The ensuing firestorm began just days before the Los Angeles Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets were scheduled to play a pair of NBA preseason games in Shanghai and Shenzhen.
While the games occurred, media availability was restricted first by the Chinese government and then by the league.
The saga continued when LeBron James, the most recognizable basketball player in the world, said that Morey was “misinformed,” about the situation in Hong Kong when he tweeted.
James, who has been one of the most outspoken players about social issues during his career, received a ton of backlash via social media for his comments.
In Hong Kong, protestors burned James jerseys in the streets.
James then tried to backtrack on his comments tweeting, “I’m not discussing the substance. Others can talk About that.”
Silver added on Thursday that the league has suffered “substantial” financial losses in the wake of the controversy, saying “the financial consequences” of China’s backlash “have been and may continue to be fairly dramatic.”