NBA commissioner Adam Silver addressed Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s controversial tweet that showed support for protesters in Hong Kong, saying the Rockets general manager has the right to freedom of expression.
While Silver said the league is “apologetic” and “regrets” that Chinese officials and fans were upset by Morey’s comments, he also said that Morey had a right to express himself as the general manager wrote in a now-deleted tweet: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”
“Daryl Morey, as general manager of the Houston Rockets, enjoys that right as one of our employees,” Silver said. “What I also tried to suggest is that I understand there are consequences from his freedom of speech and we will have to live with those consequences.
“I’m sympathetic to our interests here and our partners that 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.”
Silver’s comments come as China’s state broadcaster CCTV canceled plans to air two NBA preseason games in response to Morey’s remark and how the NBA handled the situation.
“We’re strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver’s claim to support Morey’s right to freedom of expression,” the CCTV said in a statement. “We believe that any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability are not within the scope of freedom of speech.”
Silver plans to go to Shanghai on Wednesday to meet with Chinese Basketball Association president Yao Ming and other officials in hopes of reaching “some sort of common ground.”
He also said he didn’t expect China to cancel its plans to broadcast the games, “but if those are the consequences of us adhering to our values, I still feel it’s very, very important to adhere to those values.”
Morey apologized for his tweet Sunday as he wrote, in part: “I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. … I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.”
NBA teams have been playing exhibition games in Asia, including the Rockets, Lakers and Nets. The Rockets are gearing up to play two games in Japan, while the Lakers and Nets will face off Thursday in Shanghai and Saturday in Shenzhen, China.