NBA Basketball Returns to Chinese TV After a Long Left

China Central Television, China’s state-run TV network, has once again started broadcasting NBA games, signaling that the dispute between the league and government authority that has been going on since 2019 seems to be coming to an end.

The news was first reported by the Global Times, a state-run Chinese media outlet, and confirmed by an NBA spokesman

The first game this year on state TV, according to the Global Times, was Tuesday night’s game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Utah Jazz. According to the Global Times, the broadcast is the start of the NBA’s full return to the airwaves in China. The league has been virtually off the air on Chinese state television since 2019, with the exception of a solo game in the 2020 finals. The games are broadcast on Tencent, a China-based digital streaming platform.

“NBA games have continued to be broadcast in China for nearly 35 years, including this time on many other services,” Mike Bass, an NBA spokesman, said in a statement yesterday. Thursday. “We believe that broadcasting the games to our fans in China and more than 200 other countries and territories is in line with our mission to inspire and connect people everywhere through the game of basketball.”

The league says it announced on game day the game it would broadcast.

The controversy between China and the NBA began in the fall of 2019, when Daryl Morey, a former executive of the Houston Rockets, shared a picture supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. He posted this when the Los Angeles Lakers and the Nets were getting ready to play a preseason game in China. The social media post angered the Chinese government, causing the games to be taken off the air and Chinese companies to take sponsorships from the league.

The league has come under house criticism from politicians across the ideological spectrum for seeing some respect for it in China. Morey issued a statement later saying he had no intention of committing an offense and was also reprimanded by Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta. The league issued a statement saying it was “unfortunate” that Morey’s post hurt many “friends and fans” of the NBA in China. A Chinese translation of the NBA statement suggested the league apologized to the Chinese government, adding to domestic criticism that the NBA’s response was not strong enough to stand behind Morey.

“We have always supported and will continue to support NBA family members who have expressed their views on social and political issues,” Bass said in his statement Thursday.

Since Morey’s post, the NBA has always been the target of criticism, especially from elected Republicans who have attacked the league’s willingness to monetize a tyrannical government accused by a litany of violation of human rights.

It’s not just Morey’s response that invites detractors. In 2020, ESPN reported that there was widespread abuse of children at basketball academies at Chinese-government-run facilities co-sponsored by the NBA A league spokesman recently said the league was no longer affiliated with that. academies.

Broadcasting NBA games on Chinese television opens up revenue of hundreds of millions of dollars annually for the league. The Chinese league relationship has been under scrutiny in recent months as Enes Kanter Freedom, an NBA center most recently with the Boston Celtics, criticized the Chinese government and the league for business interests. in the country. The freedom was exchanged by the Celtics for the Rockets, who cut him in February.

Kristen Looney, an assistant professor of Chinese politics at Georgetown, said in an interview that the Chinese government’s decision could be the result of considerable passage of time or a larger geopolitical calculation.

“It could mean that enough time has passed that things have collapsed,” Looney said. “From a macro perspective, this could mean that China is trying to signal that they still want good economic relations with the United States to continue despite differences of opinion on the Russia-Ukraine crisis. It is possible that China fears that its close relationship with Russia will have an impact on economic relations with the United States and the rest of the Western world on the Ukrainian side.

The NBA has targeted China – and its population of 1.4 billion – for nearly half a century. China now has more fans in the league than there is in the United States, a country of 330 million. Before the pandemic, top NBA stars frequently traveled the country between seasons to promote sneakers. Since 2004, the NBA has played a lot of games there.

Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, has consistently maintained the NBA’s position in China, despite critics. In a recent interview with The New York Times, Silver said he believes the league was unfairly selected for criticism because of the large number of U.S. companies doing business in China.

“Almost every American uses products made in China,” Silver said. “And in many cases, they are the products we trust. Our computers, our phones, our clothes. Our shoes, our kids’ toys. So the question becomes why the NBA was chosen that a company should now boycott China? ”

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