NBA basketball returned to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV for the first time in nearly 18 months on Wednesday, after China blacklisted it following a team official’s support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.
National broadcaster CCTV streamed the clash between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz, to a mixed reception from Chinese basketball fans.
China, the NBA’s largest overseas market by far, suspended broadcasts on CCTV after the Houston Rockets’ then-general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of Hong Kong democracy protesters in 2019.
Since then, CCTV has frozen out the league, but viewers have been able to watch games on online streaming platforms and CCTV aired Game 5 of the NBA Finals in October 2020.
A CCTV spokesperson at that time called the decision a “normal broadcast arrangement” and noted the NBA’s “continued expressions of goodwill” towards China.
CCTV did not give a reason for Wednesday’s broadcast and did not immediately respond to AFP requests for comment.
However, US media reported that Clippers coach Tyronn Lue has recently been in a running war of words with Morey, who is now working for the Philadelphia 76ers.
“Last time he tweeted, he cost the NBA a billion dollars. So I don’t think he should be doing too much tweeting,” Lue reportedly said this week after a Morey tweet about Lue’s team.
While some Chinese basketball fans hailed the return of the NBA to their screens, others slammed CCTV for the decision.
“Who’s to blame for Chinese people’s lack of backbone?” read one post on the Twitter-like Weibo social media platform. “How will foreigners treat us if our official media do this sort of thing?”
NBA executives initially defended Morey’s right to freedom of expression, prompting numerous Chinese business partners and celebrities to cut ties with the league. First Post