Despite mounting controversy, it appears – at present, anyway – that Thursday’s NBA preseason match between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets in Shanghai will go ahead. According to a source familiar with the planning of the game, which is set to be played at Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena, operations are continuing under the assumption the game will go ahead.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver flew into Shanghai Tuesday night to meet with Chinese counterparts about a contentious tweet made by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.
Both Silver’s comments and Morey’s tweet were condemned by fans, netizens and Chinese companies, with the situation coming to a head Tuesday afternoon as both CCTV and Tencent announced they would be suspending their broadcasts of NBA preseason games.
Workers around Shanghai spent the day removing advertisements for the game and media appearances by both teams were also canceled Wednesday.
Earlier Wednesday afternoon, it was also confirmed that a fan event that was set to take place in Shanghai that evening had been canceled, while open practices for both the Lakers and Nets were moved behind closed doors. A number of celebrities stated on Weibo that they would not be attending the fan event. Additionally, a Lakers NBA Cares event scheduled to take place Wednesday was also canceled.
A number of Chinese companies have distanced themselves from the NBA in the wake of Morey’s tweet, reports Beijing News. Among the companies which have decided to suspend and investigate cooperation with the NBA are mobile phone company Vivo, sports brand Anta, fast food chain Dicos and LuckIn Coffee, among others. Chinese travel agency CTrip has also canceled sales of tickets to NBA games, as well as NBA-related travel packages, according to Reuters.
In response to backlash over earlier comments that he made on the tweet controversy, NBA commissioner Adam Silver released a statement Tuesday evening. Silver said, “Over the last three decades, the NBA has developed a great affinity for the people of China. We have seen how basketball can be an important form of people-to-people exchange that deepens ties between the United States and China.”
In the release, Silver also went on to say, “However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way.”
With the scandal growing, and many NBA teams currently taking part in preseason games, a number of NBA coaches were asked for their opinion on the situation. LA Clippers coach, Doc Rivers, said “freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom of consequences,” while Houston Rockets coach Mike D‘Antoni refused to talk about the situation and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said that he needed to educate himself on the situation before talking about it. In a controversial move, San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Popovich applauded Adam Silver for being a great leader. The Weibo tag Popovich praises Adam Silver (#波波维奇称赞肖华#) has been trending on the microblogging site throughout the day.
[Cover image via @lakers/Instagram]