BEIJING (AP) — China denied NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s claim on Friday that it demanded the firing of Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey over a tweet that supported anti-government protests in Hong Kong.
“The Chinese government never posed this requirement,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
During an appearance in New York on Thursday, Silver said the NBA was “being asked to fire (Morey) by the Chinese government, by the parties we dealt with, government and business.”
“We said, ‘There’s no chance that’s happening,'” Silver said. “There’s no chance we’ll even discipline him.”
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV did not air the two NBA preseason games between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets last week. Tencent, which has a $1.5 billion deal to stream NBA games in China over the next five years, has also stopped showing Rockets games but has not totally dropped all NBA content.
The league and LeBron James, one of its biggest stars, have been heavily criticized by some U.S. lawmakers for the perception that they caved to the Chinese regime. Morey has not been rebuked publicly by the league, and Silver has said that the league will support his freedom of expression.