ESPN Forbids Coverage Critical of China in NBA GM’s Pro-Hong Kong Tweet Aftermath
An internal ESPN memo mandated neutrality when dealing with the China-Hong Kong conflict after National Basketball Association general manager Daryl Morey made a pro-Hong Kong tweet last week that angered the Chinese government, according to a Deadspin report.
Morey, who is the general manager of the Houston Rockets team, wrote a tweet that was published on Oct. 4, saying, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” Although he deleted the comment shortly after he posted it, the backlash from China was immediate and severe.
Tencent, the digital rights holder of NBA in China, updated after they announced blacklist of Daryl Morey due to his 'Free HK' tweet: They will suspend all reports/streaming of Houston Rockets. Rockets subscribers are eligible to change service. NBA China market in trouble. pic.twitter.com/PGjWoZ8uPq
— Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) October 6, 2019
NBA commissioner Adam Silver released a weak statement after the controversy grew, in an obvious attempt not to alienate the Chinese market that they see as a growing revenue stream.
“Over the last three decades, the NBA has developed a great affinity for the people of China. We have seen how basketball can be an important form of people-to-people exchange that deepens ties between the United States and China,” Silver said in his statement.
“At the same time, we recognize that our two countries have different political systems and beliefs. And like many global brands, we bring our business to places with different political systems around the world,” he added.
ESPN, the Disney-owned television network that has helped turn the NBA into a worldwide phenomenon, is taking a similarly pro-China stance regarding the conflict, and it is represented in their programming.
“Daryl Morey, a good man, an exceptional executive, and a conscientious human being, what were you thinking speaking up on this issue?” commentator Stephen A. Smith asked on his ESPN radio show. “It’s about a multitude of people that extends far beyond yourself that you have compromised because you had this insatiable appetite to disseminate a tweet. You don’t know better than that?”
“Daryl Morey had an obligation to think about the Houston Rockets organization and about the National Basketball Association before himself,” Smith added.
“People on both sides of this issue, whether you are in mainland China, Hong Kong, or around the world feel strongly about their positions. And I think it’s important for all of us to read about it and understand what is going on,” sportswriter Ramona Shelburne said during ESPN’s Around the Horn.
However, one man apparently didn’t get the memo. Sports reporter Kevin Blackistone, who had previously been a world news reporter in the 1980s and early 1990s, actually had the courage to address the issue of Chinese-backed tyranny in Hong Kong.
“I don’t think it was a mistake for Daryl Morey to express his sympathy for a movement against authoritarianism being implemented into Hong Kong. A struggle that has been going on now for four months, that reportedly has injured 1,100 people, reportedly now has live gunfire in the streets, which has injured a couple of people, which reportedly has left a journalist covering all this blind. This is a very serious situation,” he added.
ESPN’s example shows how corporate America is firmly behind globalism, and will mute criticism of the Chinese despotism if they feel it enriches their bottom line.