MANILA, Philippines – Chinese tech brands, including smartphone firm Vivo and internet juggernaut Tencent, said they are pulling out of the deals they have with the National Basketball Association (NBA) after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey expressed his support for the protests in Hong Kong in a tweet.
According to TechCrunch, Vivo, who is a major sponsor for the league’s upcoming exhibition games in Shanghai, voiced their dissatisfaction with the Rockets executive’s views on Chinese social media platform Weibo.
Tencent Sports, meanwhile, issued a statement that said it was temporarily suspending the preseason NBA broadcasts for an unspecified amount of time.
Some users on Twitter also noticed e-commerce giants Alibaba and JD.com have similarly taken a stand against the basketball league, taking down products related to the Houston Rockets.
Despite the controversy, NBA commissioner Adam Silver defended Morey’s right to free speech.
“It is inevitable that people around the world – including from America and China – will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences. However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way,” he said in a statement.
China is said to be one of the NBA’s most valuable markets outside of the US. The league has a 5-year partnership with Tencent for digital streaming rights of games, which is reported to be worth $1.5 billion. – Rappler.com