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China halts NBA broadcasts as anger mounts over Hong Kong tweet
[SHANGHAI] China's state broadcaster CCTV said on Tuesday that it would halt broadcasts of the National Basketball Association's games as backlash intensified against the US league over a tweet that expressed support for Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters.
The NBA is under pressure after Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted an image of a slogan supporting Hong Kong's ongoing protest movement. While the message was quickly deleted, it sparked fury from supporters of the communist government, casting a shadow on one of China's favorite teams.
The backlash in one of the NBA's biggest markets has transformed what was supposed to be a high-profile promotional week for the league in one of its biggest markets, into a public-relations disaster.
Celebrities and fans said they would skip the exhibition games this week in China where top stars like LeBron James were scheduled to play, while an NBA charity event at a Shanghai primary school was canceled on Tuesday.
The anger broadened beyond the Rockets to the entire league after Commissioner Adam Silver tried to defend Morey.
Acknowledging the economic impact from the tweet, he told Kyodo News in Japan that as a "values-based organization, I want to make it clear that Daryl Morey is supported in terms of his ability to exercise his freedom of expression."
The comment added fuel to the flames after Chinese sponsors including sportswear maker Li Ning Co suspended ties with the Rockets and broadcasters stopped airing their games. Sports forum Hupu said it has blocked all Rockets-related news, streaming and comments.