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China TV drops NBA exhibition games

BEIJING/TOKYO: Chinese state television said on Tuesday it would not air NBA exhibition games played in the country this week, heaping pressure on the US basketball league after a tweet by a Houston Rockets executive backing protests in Hong Kong.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey apologised on Monday for any hurt caused by the tweet, which he quickly deleted over the weekend.

But China’s government, fans and the team’s partners have not been assuaged, resulting in loss of sponsors and broadcasts in the world’s second-largest economy and an important National Basketball Association (NBA) market.

“We strongly oppose Silver’s support of Morey on the basis of freedom of speech and we think any comments that challenge a country’s sovereignty and social stability is not within the scope of freedom of speech,” CCTV said Tuesday in a statement in Chinese, adding that it would review its relationship with the NBA.

The NBA issued a statement saying it regretted Morey’s remarks, drawing criticism from U.S. lawmakers.

But commissioner Adam Silver said it was not up to the NBA to regulate what players, employees and team owners said.

“It is inevitable that people around the world – including from America and China – will have different viewpoints over different issues,” Silver said in a statement. “It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences.”

Months of anti-government protests in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong have angered Beijing, which has accused Western governments of stirring up anti-China sentiment. China rejects outside intervention in Hong Kong as interference.

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