Sports

Basketball coaches focused on teams not China amid Twitter storm

Basketball coaches Mike D'Antoni and Nick Nurse refused on Tuesday (October 8) to be drawn into the uproar following a tweet from NBA Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey voicing support for anti-government protests in Hong Kong.

Rockets head coach D’Antoni said he was not going to talk about the issue when pressed by a reporter following a pre-season game against the Toronto Raptors, whose coach Nick Nurse said he had faith in the NBA leadership.

Chinese state television said it would not air NBA exhibition games played in the country this week, heaping pressure on the U.S. basketball league though Morey apologized on Monday for any hurt caused by the tweet, which he quickly deleted over the weekend.

However, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver spoke up for freedom of speech saying it was not up to the NBA to regulate what players, employees and team owners said, nor to adjudicate differences between people around the world.

Silver said the league also supported Brooklyn Nets owner and Alibaba Group co-founder Joseph Tsai, who issued a lengthy statement criticising Morey’s tweet.

CCTV state television said it strongly opposed Silver’s support of Morey.

Any comments that challenged a country’s sovereignty and social stability were “not within the scope of freedom of speech”, CCTV said, adding it was reviewing its relationship with the NBA.

Months of anti-government protests in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong have angered Beijing, which has accused Western governments of stirring up anti-China sentiment. China rejects outside intervention in Hong Kong as interference.

A pre-season game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers is set for Thursday in Shanghai, with a rematch scheduled for Saturday in Shenzhen. However, organisers abruptly cancelled a Tuesday media event without explanation.

(Production; Andy Ragg)

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