China-U.S. tension dribbles into to the sports world

Zach Yearwood, Sports Reporter

At what point does money impede freedom of speech in America? The question has come to the forefront of attention this month in the realm of sports.

With the NBA season officially underway, it is easy to forget about the NBA’s current dilemma. Just weeks before the season began, one NBA story made headlines internationally.

The controversy began October 4, when Houston Rockets general manager, Daryl Morey, tweeted a photo supporting Hong Kong in its struggle for independence from China. 

The people of Hong Kong have been pushing for sovereignty for years. Protests flared up in June when a bill was proposed to extradite fugitives to mainland China.

In response to Morey’s tweet, China blocked all subsequent NBA preseason games being played in China from airing on television. All wholly owned Chinese companies halted business with the league and the Chinese government even called for the firing of Morey. The NBA and the Rockets refused.

The Houston Rockets alone held several sponsorships with China. The team arguably had the closest relationship with China of all NBA teams, considering they had the most prominent Chinese player of all time, Yao Ming. Ming is a hall of fame center who played with the Rockets for eight seasons. He is currently the chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association.

The issue sparked debate over whether the NBA should concede to the demands of an authoritarian government in the interest of preserving their own bottom line.

The NBA is not the only organization embroiled in controversy with China over Hong Kong.

Video game company Activision Blizzard suspended professional Hearthstone player Ng Wai ‘Blitzchung’ Chung for a year and withheld prize money he had previously won. The Hong Kong native was punished by Blizzard for an interview he was a part of after winning a tournament.

In the interview, Chung shouted “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age.” Blizzard, after receiving backlash from China, suspended Chung for a year and withheld his winnings from the tournament.

The company was not prepared, however, for the criticism that came from the public, who immediately got behind Chung and Hong Kong. In response, Blizzard reinstated his winnings and reduced the suspension to six months.

China, a country whose government tends to suppress dissent, has tried to censor free speech in America’s entertainment industry. This has intensified the economic and political rivalry between the two countries. The relationship between the United States and China has already been strained over the past few months due to the ongoing trade war.


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