NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Tuesday doubled down on his support for Daryl Morey after a tweet from the Houston Rockets general manager backing pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong sparked backlash from China.
Silver stressed during a news conference Tokyo that he previously said in a statement that “the long-held values of the NBA are to support freedom of expression, and certainly freedom of expression by members of the NBA community.”
“And in this case, Daryl Morey, as the general manager of the Houston Rockets, enjoys that right as one of our employees,” he said.
“What I also tried to suggest is I understand that there are consequences from that exercise of, in essence, his freedom of speech, and, you know, we will have to live with those consequences,” he added. “It’s my hope that, for our Chinese fans, and our partners in China, they will see those remarks in the context of now a three-decade, if not longer, relationship.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addressing the controversy over the Houston Rockets’ GM comments on Hong Kong protesters. pic.twitter.com/Uou1nHhNg5
— CNN Early Start (@EarlyStart) October 8, 2019
In a since-deleted tweet, Moray voiced support for the protesters in Hong Kong who have been demonstrating against China for months. He wrote “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”
The tweet drew criticism from China, and the Chinese Basketball Association and several TV providers suspended ties with the Rockets.
Silver also said on Tuesday that that he is “sympathetic to our interests here and to our partners who are upset.”
“I don’t think it’s inconsistent on one hand to be sympathetic to them and at the same time stand by our principles,” he added.
When asked about Chinese Central Television, a state television broadcaster in mainland China, refusing to air an exhibition game, Silver called the move “unfortunate.” He said he is traveling to Shanghai this week, and he hopes to meet with officials to work out the Chinese backlash against Morey’s tweet.
“It’s not something we expected to happen. I think it’s unfortunate, but if that’s the consequences of us adhering to our values, we still feel it’s critically important we adhere to those values,” Silver said.
“It’s my hope that when I’m in Shanghai, I can meet with the appropriate officials and discuss where we stand, and, again, put those remarks from Daryl Moray and my remarks in an appropriate context of a many decades-long relationship, and see if we can find mutual respect for each other’s political systems and beliefs. I’m a realist as well, and I recognize that this issue may not die down so quickly,” he continued.
Many said Silver’s initial comments on Monday did not appear to defend Morey’s freedom of expression.