The ESPN story by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru said the return is not being trumpeted by the league, which declined to directly address the return. Instead, it gave a spokeman’s statement extolling the NBA’s right to “inspire and connect people everywhere.’
The story noted the NBA owners collectively have more than $10 billion in asset exposure to China, as well as doing $5 billion of NBA business in the country. That presumably includes broadcast and intenet rights, as well as merchandising and sponsorships.
Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey angerred the Chinese government by tweeting “First for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong” during the uprising in that city.
ESPN estimates that tweet cost the league hundreds of millions of dollars. It also gave the league a black eye when it hesitated to support Morey’s call for freedom. ESPN pointed out the hypocrisy in the NBA’s calls for social justice in the US and its position on China’s human rights violations.
“Nobody really wants their name associated with China, but what can they do?” attorney Dan Harris, who represents a number of companies who do business in China, told ESPN. “They’re sort of betwixt and between. If they say what Americans want them to say, it’s death in China. If they say what China wants, it’s death in America.”