Mark Cuban, billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, says pressure from China to silence NBA players and managers hasn’t changed anything at the basketball league.
“What influence? What did they do that caused us to change any behavior?” he asked during a panel discussion at the Wall Street Journal’s Tech Live conference in Laguna Beach, Cali., on Monday. “There’s just no reason to get in the domestic policy of foreign countries and it’s not like any of them have made us change out behavior at the NBA.”
Cuban’s comments come after Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted support for anti Chinese government protests in Hong Kong earlier in October. The Chinese Consulate-General in Houston told the team to “correct the error,” and Morey later deleted the tweet and apologized.
Cuban said that he would not have reprimanded Morey for his tweet, and explained that he’s been outspoken about how China has “disadvantaged” Americans through its IPOs and stock listings on U.S. exchanges.
“I’ve been very clear that there are things they are doing wrong to disadvantage American citizens, particularly financially,” Cuban said. “It’s not a matter of not being willing to speak up against China.”
China’s influence on the NBA did not just stop at Morey’s tweet. Nearly all the NBA’s Chinese partners suspended their ties with the league following initial backlash from China. The Houston Rockets also later prevented a CNN reporter from asking players James Harden and Russell Westbrook whether they felt differently about speaking out on politics and social issues. A Rockets spokesperson said only “basketball questions” were permitted.
The NBA has grown to become China’s most popular sports league, where more than more than 300 million people in China play basketball, according to the NBA.
By Ganesh Setty