SHANGHAI, China – Shanghai on Wednesday, October 9 canceled a fan event related to a planned NBA exhibition game in the city over "inappropriate" comments by a Houston Rockets executive in support of protests in Hong Kong, city sports officials announced.
The event was scheduled for Wednesday night, the eve of a scheduled game between the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers.
But it was now canceled due to the "inappropriate comments made by the NBA's Houston Rockets general manager (Daryl) Morey and the inappropriate statement of NBA commissioner (Adam) Silver," a statement by the city's sports federation said.
The US league has drawn fire for from Chinese broadcasters, sponsors and social media after Morey tweeted a message Friday saying "Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong."
Despite originally calling Morey's tweet "regrettable" at a press conference in Tokyo Tuesday, Silver insisted that the league would not apologize and would "support freedom of expression."
The NBA has built a lucrative Chinese fanbase in recent years thanks in part to the popularity of former Rockets center Yao Ming, who Silver said was "extremely upset" over the controversy.
The fallout deepened as a "fan night" due to take place in Shanghai was canceled and speculation has grown in the US that the games themselves – another is to be held in the southern city of Shenzhen on Saturday – could be canceled.
Crews at Shanghai's Mercedes-Benz arena, where the Nets and Lakers were to play, were seen Wednesday morning removing the logos of the NBA, Nets, Lakers, and corporate sponsors from lamp posts and walls in the area.
Silver was due to arrive in Shanghai Wednesday for the games. He said Tuesday he hoped to discuss the situation with Chinese officials.
A group of young men playing a pick-up game in Beijing on Wednesday said they were disappointed by Morey's tweet and the NBA's response.
"I don't think I can continue to watch (NBA) games," said 26-year-old Fu Hao, sweating after playing in an outdoor court.
"From my point of view, if he supports the independence of Hong Kong, I feel that we should pay more attention to the CBA and less attention to the NBA, because as a Chinese we have to support our country," Fu told AFP.
Foreign firms warned
Hong Kong has endured nearly 4 months of protests that were ignited by a now-scrapped plan to allow extraditions of criminal suspects to the mainland.
They snowballed into a movement calling for more democratic freedoms and police accountability, in the biggest challenge to China's rule of Hong Kong since its handover from the British in 1997.
Chinese state media has repeatedly warned foreign firms against speaking out or taking any actions to support the protesters, warning it could cost them access to China's market of 1.4 billion people.
Tech giant Apple, which has a huge presence in China, on Wednesday became the latest target.
An opinion piece in the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, slammed a transport app available on Apple's store that it alleged helped protesters identify police in Hong Kong.
"Apple's approval for the app obviously helps rioters," the article said. "Does this mean Apple intended to be an accomplice to the rioters?"
The article then cautioned that: "The map app is just the tip of the iceberg," alleging a song supporting Hong Kong independence had also appeared on its music store..
"Nobody wants to drag Apple into the lingering unrest in Hong Kong. But people have reason to assume that Apple is mixing business with politics, and even illegal acts," it said.
"Apple has to think about the consequences of its unwise and reckless decision."
US jewelry brand Tiffany and Hong Kong's flagship carrier, Cathay Pacific, have also been heavily criticized in China.
In an illustration of companies trying to stay onside with China, American shoemaker Vans removed some design submissions from a competition, including one apparently praising Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters.
In a Facebook post explaining its decision last week, the firm said it had "never taken a political position," without mentioning the Hong Kong protests or China. – Rappler.com