NBA China Suspends Business Partnerships With League After Team’s Hong Kong Tweet

All of the NBA’s official Chinese partners have cut ties with the league after the Houston Rocket’s general manager tweeted that he was in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests.

Over the weekend, Daryl Morey posted an image on Twitter that read, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”

According to CNN Business, tensions between Hong Kong and Beijing, which controls the former British colony, have increased after months of political issues. Following the tweet, the Chinese Basketball Association announced on Sunday that it would be suspending cooperation with the Rockets. The association’s chairman is Yao Ming, a former Rockets player.

China didn’t stop there; it also threw out the NBA team’s partnerships in China. CCTV 5, the sports channel of China’s top state broadcaster, announced that it would suspend airing Houston Rockets events on television. Tencent Sports said it would suspend live streaming for Houston Rockets games, as well as news about the team. Tencent (TCEHY) is the NBA’s exclusive digital partner in China. Almost 500 million people in China viewed NBA programming on Tencent platforms last season, according to the companies. NBA China lists 11 Chinese-owned companies, and as of Wednesday, they have all halted their dealings with the league.  CTrip (CTRP), China’s biggest online travel website, said Tuesday that it “dropped all NBA-related tickets and travel products” from its platform. 

Mengniu Dairy, one of the country’s top milk producers, vowed to suspend “all commercial cooperation with the NBA.” Chinese fast-food chain Dicos also said it planned to suspend “all marketing and publicity activities” with the league, while the skincare brand Wzun said it would “terminate all cooperation with the NBA.”

On Monday, NBA Commissioner #AdamSilver shared his opinion on the matter during an interview with local Japanese news outlet, saying he supports Morey’s tweet “in terms of his ability to exercise his freedom of expression.” “It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues,” he said in the statement. “It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences.” The Chinese market makes up at least 10% of the league’s current revenue, and could reach 20% by 2030, according to CNN Business.

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