China won't broadcast NBA following coronavirus pause, state-owned CCTV says

The NBA’s once-lucrative business in China has been in flux since last October.

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Chinese state television said Tuesday that it would not air NBA games once the league returns from a prolonged pause related to the coronavirus pandemic, reiterating a boycott that has been in place since last fall.

State-run CCTV said it has no plans to resume broadcasts, “reiterating its consistent stance on national sovereignty," according to a statement posted on Chinese social media site Weibo. The post was CCTV’s first update on the status of its relationship with the NBA in several months.

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The NBA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The NBA’s once-lucrative business in China has been in flux since last October, when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey triggered an international dispute by tweeting his support of pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong. When NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expressed support for Morey’s right to free speech, CCTV pulled the games off the air and Chinese sponsors suspended ties with the league.

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CCTV’s statement comes shortly after the league named Michael Ma, an executive with family ties to the network, as the new CEO of NBA China. Ma’s appointment prompted optimism regarding a potential reconciliation between the NBA and China.

Earlier this year, Silver said the NBA had lost more than $300 million in revenue from China since the dispute over Morey’s tweet began.

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A difficult financial year for the NBA was made worse in mid-March, when league officials were forced to suspend play due to the coronavirus pandemic. The NBA will begin withholding 25 percent of player pay on May 15 as a check against financial uncertainties during the delay.

At present, it’s unclear when the NBA will resume play. Silver told NBA players earlier this month that a decision could come by as late as June.

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