The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

China censors the NBA following Hong Kong controversy

4 min read


The National Basketball Association is the most recent item to be censored in China.

The NBA is widely popular, not just in China, but across the world. The NBA has foreign players from around the globe that compete for a living. China possesses a huge fan base for the NBA, bringing with it massive viewership and revenue.

Chinese fans react during a preseason NBA basketball game between the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers at the Mercedes Benz Arena in Shanghai, China, Thursday.

The NBA started to play annual games in China in 2004, but that wasn’t the start of the NBA in the eastern country. The popularity of the NBA in China started when the NBA finals aired on Chinese state media in 1994. This introduced basketball to the largest market in the world. Since then, China has fallen in love with basketball and the NBA.

Yao Ming, one of the most popular NBA players in the world, was born and raised in mainland China. The Houston Rockets took Yao Ming first overall in the 2002 NBA draft. This gave the country a player who they can support and rally behind, drawing China to support the NBA even more since they were represented within the player base.

Recently though, issues have arisen due to a tweet that was posted on Oct 4 that showed support to the Hong Kong protests. Daniel Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted support for the protests that are currently ongoing in Hong Kong to show that he supports free speech. He deleted the tweet which featured an image that reads “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”

This caused China to react as does not condone the protests in Hong Kong, which they consider unlawful. The protests stemmed from an extradition bill that the Hong Kong government proposed that would allow prisoners to be sent to mainland China to be tried. This raised human rights concerns, causing protests to spread around the city.

This tweet caused China to put a block on all of the Houston Rockets preseason games. This has also caused issues with sponsors Li-Ning and Anta suspending contract talks with the NBA. Tencent, the digital partner of the NBA, has also suspended business with the Houston Rockets.

China took NBA preseason games between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets off the national channels following the tweet. A Laker’s NBA Cares event was also canceled in Shanghai that was supposed to benefit the Special Olympics. The Chinese Central Television released a statement saying “We’re strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver’s [the NBA commissioner’s] claim to support Morey’s right to freedom of expression. We believe that any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability are not within the scope of freedom of speech.”

This has since caused an issue about what is protected with freedom of speech.. At UMW this is a major issue since UMW offers an environment that encourages people to speak on social injustices and issues that are currently plaguing our world.

“As someone who is a major in English and who takes part in the newspaper this is very worrying to me since the freedom of speech and being able to say what’s on one’s mind is important to the betterment of the world…I think it’s ridiculous how this ban is even a thing,” said senior Joe Langley. “The NBA is a wonderful organization that provides entertainment worldwide, as it obtains the very best talent in basketball. Politics should not come in the way of sports, as sports have the power to unite humanity together.”

This shows freedom of speech is something that is important on campus and to be able to voice one’s opinion since UMW offers a safe environment for people. This feeling was also felt by the NBA commissioner Adam Silver who supported his employees to voice their opinion on matters that are important to them and to fight for the right to say what they want.

Senior Andrew Halmrast agreed, “With China taking issue with the NBA just draws more attention to the fact that China has issues with being a very monitored state. This also hurts the NBA though since they lose the second biggest market, they had access to,” said Halmrast. “I just personally see this as an issue that no one wins in and it should be dealt with soon so people can just watch basketball.”

The NBA needs to find a way to quickly end the issues involving China so people can go back to enjoying basketball without having to worry about anything political.