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In a statement released on Tuesday, Silver disclosed that he will be traveling to Shanghai with the hopes of repairing the NBA's relationship with China, the country's sponsors, and the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) in the wake of Daryl Morey's controversial tweet.
Silver promised that the league will not sacrifice its belief in freedom of speech to salvage that relationship. "The NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues," Silver said. "We simply could not operate that way."
Silver's statement comes days after Morey's tweet, in which the Rockets GM voiced his support for the Hong Kong protesters, tweeting: "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong." This did not sit well with the Chinese government, leading to several Chinese businesses and the CBA suspending their contracts with the Rockets.
Initially, the NBA referred to Morey's tweets as "regrettable." Both Morey and Rockets superstar James Harden then apologized for offending China. Silver acknowledged that the league's original statement fell flat. "I recognize our initial statement left people angered, confused or unclear on who we are or what the NBA stands for," Silver said before explaining that he will support Morey like he would any employee of the NBA.
"Essentially, what I've said in that statement is the long-held values of the NBA are to support freedom of expression, and certainly freedom of expression by members of the NBA community," Silver continued. "And in this case, Daryl Morey, as the general manager of the Houston Rockets, enjoys that right as one of our employees... What I also tried to suggest is I understand that there are consequences from that exercise of, in essence, his freedom of speech. We will have to live with those consequences."
Footage quickly surfaced showing Rockets art being painted over at an indoor court in Shanghai.
Silver will board a plane to Shanghai to watch the Laker/Nets contest in the city on Thursday.
And while Silver is openly discussing the controversy, the same can't be said for ESPN. According to Deadspin, an ESPN executive sent an internal memo to staff that while covering the China story, the primary focus should be on basketball, and discussions of a political nature should be avoided.
Unfortunately for ESPN, this story doesn't look like it's going away any time soon. According to Shanghaiist, a Houston Rockets fan in China was recently detained for posting a photo on Weibo of himself about to burn a Chinese flag. The 25-year-old man was wearing a James Harden jersey in the image, and captioned it with, “I live and die with my team. Come and catch me.” Liaoyuan police announced that he was arrested for insulting China’s national flag.