Officials with the NBA on Thursday blocked players with the Houston Rockets from answering a reporter’s question related to the ongoing China-Hong Kong controversy.
A CNN reporter asked James Harden and Russell Westbrook if they would “feel differently” about NBA-affiliated people speaking out about political or societal affairs after this week’s dispute, which began when the Rockets’ general manager voice support for Hong Kong protesters in a since-deleted tweet.
“The NBA has always been a league that prides itself on its players and its coaches being able to speak out openly about political and societal affairs. I just wonder after the events this week and the fallout we’ve seen whether you would both feel differently about speaking out that way in the future?” the reporter attempted to ask.
An NBA spokesperson prevented the players from answering saying they would answer “basketball questions only.”
James Harden and Russell Westbrook were asked if they would “feel differently” about speaking on political and societal affairs because of the events with the NBA/China.
A spokesperson interrupted and informed the reporter that the players would answer basketball questions only. pic.twitter.com/zMe8uWz2hY
— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) October 10, 2019
“It’s a legitimate question,” the reporter replied. “This is an event that happened this week during the NBA.”
The microphone was subsequently taken from the reporter, and the NBA spokesperson asked if there were any more questions.
The NBA has been facing bipartisan criticism over its response to Houston general manager Daryl Morey voicing support for Hong Kong protesters. The NBA called Morey’s tweet “regrettable” after it “deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China.”
Fans and lawmakers alike have ripped the league, accusing it of trying to stifle free speech and siding with an authoritarian regime over pro-democracy advocates.
Since June, Hong Kong has been participating in protests against mainland China in the most heated unrest the semi-autonomous region has seen in years.