Following Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, the Chinese government cracked down on the NBA, canceling media events and pulling sponsor logos from the floor prior to the game. According to CBS News, many fans coming into the arena to watch the game -- which was not being broadcast in China, but was available outside of the Communist country -- were decked out in Nets and Lakers gear. But others arrived to send a very clear message to the NBA.
One photo showed a sign directed at NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, and read simply: “F—k Adam Silver.” A video also showed fans taking a photo of the sign.
People were reportedly handing out Chinese flags to fans prior to the game, too.
While the game was played without media availability and without Chinese people across the Communist nation being able to watch, the Mercedes-Benz Arena appeared to be a packed house.
LeBron James was perhaps the only player to step out in the spotlight prior to the game. Video on Twitter showed fans screaming his name as he walked through a Shanghai hotel.
Relations between the NBA and China have remained tense in the days since Morey’s pro-Hong Kong tweet. Silver did not apologize to China over the tweet but said he regretted the outcome of it.
Silver said in a statement Tuesday that the league “will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues.”
“It is inevitable that people around the world – including from America and China – will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences," Silver said. “This is about far more than growing our business...Values of equality, respect and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA -- and will continue to do so. As an American-based basketball league operating globally, among our greatest contributions are these values of the game.”