The Shanghai Sports Federation canceled a scheduled fan event on Wednesday night because of “inappropriate comments made by the NBA’s Houston Rockets General Manager (Daryl) Morey and the inappropriate statement of NBA Commissioner (Adam) Silver.” The event was supposed to benefit the Special Olympics.
This comes after a similar fan event involving the Nets was canceled on Tuesday by Shanghai’s Education Bureau.Meanwhile, advertisements promoting the upcoming game have been removed across the city.
Off it goes. A huge @NBA ad getting the Lennon Wall treatment in Shanghai – i.e remove it no matter the cost. pic.twitter.com/Cjy3zWmCTD
Going on now: the big signage for the NBA Lakers Nets game in Shanghai is being taken down. Game hasnt been played yet btw pic.twitter.com/dTkMeZpQgs
Workers are ripping off a big NBA ad of tomorrow's Lakers VS Nets game in Shanghai. Still unclear if they can play. When asked why it's taken down, a worker said "no idea, orders from above." pic.twitter.com/cYul3xty9Z
Though there has been no indication that the game will be outright canceled. Chinese state broadcaster CCTV announced on Tuesday that it would not be showing the match, nor the follow-up game in Shenzhen.
When Los Angeles Lakers players, including LeBron James, landed in Shanghai, there were reportedly only dozens of Chinese fans waiting for them — who then covered their faces when cameras were pointed at them.
A firestorm set off by a tweet from the Houston Rockets general manager in support of Hong Kong protesters blazed on in China, threatening the multibillion-dollar business ties of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the country.
Chinas state television network CCTV said Tuesday it would suspend airing and streaming preseason NBA games. Internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. followed quickly with a similar announcement. Tencent holds a $1.5 billion contract for digital broadcasting rights to the games. Neither CCTV nor Tencent gave a timeframe for the resumption of broadcasting.
A host of Chinese companies and celebrities – including apparel retailers, a bank and even purveyors of coffee and milk – also distanced themselves from the American professional basketball organization by suspending business partnerships or quitting NBA-related activities.
Meanwhile, American commentators and news organizations including the prestigious New York Times and Wall Street Journal blasted the NBA for initially appearing to waver in its support for the free speech rights of Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets.
Morey Friday tweeted an image supporting the protests in Hong Kong. While the post was soon deleted, it ignited a furor in China as many criticized it as a challenge to the nations sovereignty. Morey later apologized on Twitter and said his views were not representative of the Rockets or the NBA. The U.S. league said Sunday in a statement that it was regrettable that Moreys tweet offended Chinese fans.
The public fury roiled on, however, after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver tried Monday to defend Moreys right to free speech.
I want to make it clear that Daryl Morey is supported in terms of his ability to exercise his freedom of expression, Silver said in an interview with Kyodo News in Japan.
China is the most important international market for the NBA, with some games attracting more Chinese viewers than in the U.S. and an expansive retail and marketing network with domestic partners. The broadcasting suspension could affect about 800 million viewers in China who watch the games on various screens each season.
According to Tencent, about 490 million viewers watched live NBA games via its online streaming platform during the 2018-2019 season, a three-fold increase from the 2014-2015 season. In July, Tencent paid $1.5 billion for five years of digital broadcasting rights to games between 2020 and 2025. Viewers pay 22 yuan to 60 yuan ($3 to $8.40) a month for different levels of access to Tencents live streaming of NBA games. Tencent also offer various NBA-related online games.
A handful of Chinese sponsors cut business ties with the Rockets, including sportswear maker Li Ning Co. and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Co. Ltd. Pudong Development Bank said it suspended all marketing and promotion activities related to the Rockets.
Major e-commerce platforms including Alibaba Group, JD.com and Suning.com shelved products related to the Rockets. Nike also pulled the Rockets off its website in China.
The NBA has been operating an official retail store on Alibabas e-commerce platform since 2012. The pair bolstered cooperation this year by launching a special NBA content section on Alibabas Taobao marketplace that could direct shoppers to related products. In 2018, total sales of basketball-related products on Alibaba reached 12.6 billion yuan ($1.8 billion), according to a joint statement by the company and NBA China.
Alibaba said it removed only products related to the Rockets from its retail platforms while other NBA items are not affected. But some retailers operating on its platform may decide to pull a broader range of NBA-related goods, Alibaba said.
The turmoil has also affected the NBAs marketing partnerships in China. Dairy giant China Mengniu Dairy Co. shelved sales of products with NBA logos on its online store, a person close to the company said.
Luckin Coffee, Chinas second-largest coffee chain, said it halted all cooperation and marketing activities related to the NBA. The coffee chain became an official China partner of the U.S. league in June and opened an NBA theme store in Shanghai last month.
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