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China looking to tamp down public anger at NBA amid Daryl Morey-Rockets controversy

Daryl Morey, Rockets, China

The government of China “abruptly moved on Thursday to tamp down public anger at the NBA,” in reaction to a tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey which drew China’s attention.

Sopan Deb of the New York Times reports there were concerns beginning to surface “that the rhetoric was damaging China’s interests and image around the world.”

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey voiced support on Twitter for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. As a result, the NBA’s relationship with China has been up in the air.

U.S. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri wrote a letter asking NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to cancel exhibition games in China. The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets still played on Thursday.

As of February in 2018, NBA China was valued at more than $4 billion, or $133 million in value for each of the 30 teams, according to Mike Ozanian of Forbes.

The NBA signed a five-year, $700 million deal back in 2015 with Tencent — a Chinese multinational conglomerate holding company — to carry NBA games in China. The NBA signed an extension with Tencent in July of 2019 worth $1.5 billion over five years.

Adam Silver said on Monday the NBA has already had a substantial economic impact from Morey’s tweet. The Chinese Basketball Association has reportedly already canceled exhibition games involving the Rockets’ G League affiliate.

Editors at state news outlets have told reporters to avoid emphasizing the NBA issue.