The Chinese government is refuting claims by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver that it demanded the firing of Hosuton Rockets general manaager Daryl Morey over the tweet that supported anti-government protests in Hong Kong.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang says the 'Chinese government never posed this requirement."
On Thursday, Silver said the league rejected demands from Chinese government officials to fire Morey over his Oct. 4 tweet.
“We made clear that we were being asked to fire him, by the Chinese government, by the parties we dealt with, government and business,” Silver said during an appearance at the Time 100 Health Summit in New York City. “We said there’s no chance that’s happening. There’s no chance we’ll even discipline him.”
The NBA drew widespread criticism for its initial apologetic response to Morey’s tweet, in which a league spokesman acknowledged the post had “offended so many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable." Silver sought to clarify the league’s position in a subsequent statement, expressing support for Morey’s right to freedom of expression.
Silver’s statement angered Chinese government officials and the NBA’s sponsors in the country, nearly all of which suspended ties with the league over its defense of Morey. State-owned CCTV pulled NBA broadcasts off the air.
Chinese government officials ordered the NBA to cancel media availability prior to two planned exhibition games in the country earlier this month, including Silver’s planned press conference, FOX Business reported at the time.
Speaking at the Time conference, Silver acknowledged that the backlash from Chinese sponsors has had a major impact on the NBA’s business interests in the region. NBA China is worth an estimated $4 billion and constitutes a significant portion of the NBA’s annual revenue.
“I don’t know where we go from here,” Silver added. “The financial consequences have been and may continue to be fairly dramatic.”
Morey has not publicly commented on the situation since Oct. 6, when he wrote on Twitter that his views on Hong Kong were not meant to offend and that his tweets “in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA.”
Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, who participated in the NBA’s trip to China, criticized Morey for failing to consider the “ramifications” of his tweet, including the potential financial cost. During the trip, James pressed Silver on whether Morey would face disciplinary action, ESPN reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.