During the first TIME 100 Health Summit on Thursday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said that he's willing to deal with the business consequences of Daryl Morey's October 4 tweet supporting protesters in Hong Kong.
During an appearance at the "Time 100 Health Summit" in Lower Manhattan, Silver was asked whether the National Basketball Association was willing to absorb the cost of standing by Morey despite what Silver said were demands by the Chinese government that he be fired. "We do all have freedom of speech, but at times there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you're not thinking about others and you're only thinking about yourself", James said (via The BBC).
"The losses have already been substantial", Silver said at the Time 100 Summit, in his first public comments about the NBA's relationship with China since he returned to the US from China earlier this week.
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The NBA was criticized for early statements after the firestorm erupted that included the word "regrettable" and many saw as a nod to China. James then pivoted to complain about the fact that although Morey posted the tweet, and Silver runs the league, the players are the ones forced to deal with the fallout most directly (a fair point, by the way). "If someone asked me about China's policies, I'd say, 'I think China has policies", he added.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed anger on Wednesday over the US House of Representatives passing legislation in support of Hong Kong protesters, describing it as "shocking hypocrisy" toward human rights and democracy and vowing "strong countermeasures". "We wanted to make sure that everyone understood we were supporting free expression". "These American values - we are an American business - travel with us wherever we go", Silver said. "Maybe I was trying too hard to be a diplomat".
Morey tweeted his apologies two days later, saying, in part, "I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China..." It was the first USA league to broadcast games in China, the first to open an office in China and the first play games there.
However, NBA star LeBron James elected to take it a step further when he made a decision to lecture Americans on being careful not to speak about things they don't understand.