Sixers focusing on basketball while US, Chinese lawmakers play hardball

Tim Jimenez
October 08, 2019 - 6:58 am
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Tuesday's Sixers preseason opener against the Guangzhou Long Lions in Philadelphia has been on the schedule for a while, and Sixers spokesman Dave Sholler says the team is focusing not on political issues, but on how basketball bridges cultural differences.

"First and foremost, we played in China last year, and it was an incredible experience for our team and our organization," Sholler said. "And we felt that support all of last year into this year."

But a tweet from Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey led to a rift between the NBA and China, and between U.S. lawmakers and the NBA. 

Morey posted an image supporting anti-government protests in Hong Kong, which upset Chinese officials and companies that do business with the Rockets. Tuesday morning China said state TV wouldn't air NBA preseason games taking place there. 

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The NBA initially put out a statement saying the tweet "deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable." Many U.S. lawmakers, Republican and Democrat, saw that as the NBA putting money over morals. 

Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Rockets fan, tweeted that he was proud of what Morey posted, adding, "In pursuit of big money, the NBA is shamefully retreating." 

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke tweeted, "The only thing the NBA should be apologizing for is their blatant prioritization of profits over human rights." 

So Tuesday morning, while in Japan, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver put out a long statement saying people all over the world have differences, but essentially it isn't the NBA's job to judge that. He said he understands how the comments came across in China, but he supports Morey's right to make those comments.

"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 said.

As the NBA faces heat from all sides, the Sixers say the show must go on. They play the Loong Lions at 7 p.m.

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CORRECTION: In a previous version of this story, Dave Sholler's name was misspelled.