NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Tuesday defended the league’s decision to continue playing games in China, while admitting that there are “tradeoffs” involved.
The NBA was harshly criticized by U.S. politicians roughly a year ago after the league attempted to apologize when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protests.
It was revealed in July 2020 that Chinese instructors physically abused children at academies established in the country by the NBA, some of them in Xinjiang Province where China is carrying out mass detention and indoctrination of Uyghur Muslims.
“I continue to believe that the people-to-people exchanges we’re seeing in China are positive, and it’s helping,” Silver told CNN’s Bob Costas on Tuesday. “It helps cultures learn about each other.”
Silver asserted that previous American administrations had encouraged the NBA to enter China as a way to “promote American values.”
“Now, there are definitely tradeoffs 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. “I would only say that I think at the end of the day those decisions are for our government, in terms of where American businesses should operate.” Silver went on to describe continued NBA presence in China as a “net positive.”
The NBA’s Chinese branches were worth over $4 billion before the Hong Kong protests and coronavirus pandemic. In February 2020, Silver said the league suffered about $400 million in losses from the fallout over Morey’s Hong Kong tweet. Even though Twitter itself is banned in China, various businesses pulled out from partnerships and sponsorships with the league.
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