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Adam Silver defers to government when asked about NBA’s arrangement with China

Adam Silver, NBA, China

Commissioner Adam Silver did a wide-ranging interview with Bob Costas on Tuesday in which he talked about the NBA’s controversial relationship with China and discussed the likely pushback of next season into 2021.

Silver was pressed by Costas about the NBA’s accords with the Chinese Basketball Association and major streaming services across the country. However, he suggested it is the government’s responsibility to suggest where American businesses should and should not operate:

“There are definitely trade-offs there, and somebody could say given the system of government in China, you the NBA should make a decision not to operate there,” Silver said, via Shlomo Sprung of Forbes. “I would only say that at the end of the day, I think those are decisions for our government in terms of where American businesses should operate.”

However, Silver did say he believes the business the league does with China has a positive cultural impact:

“I continue to believe that the people to people exchanges we’re seeing by playing in China are positive,” Silver said, via Sprung. “It helps cultures learn about each other, it allows us to export American values to China.”

The league’s relationship with China has long been a subject of criticism given human rights violations in Hong Kong and other regions.

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey previously showed support for protestors in Hong Kong, purportedly resulting in some business losses for the NBA.

Silver supported Morey’s right to free speech at the time, though other executive and even players lamented the potential loss of financials.

There were also criticisms from United States Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, who in June even called for a subpoena of Silver.

In any case, it does not appear Silver and the NBA will cut ties to China anytime soon. That is, unless the American government forbids a business relationship.

As for the next NBA season, the league is still exploring its options. Starting on Christmas Day is a best-case scenario at this point, but even Silver admits January (MLK Day?) is more likely. It could even be later than that.