NBA returns to Chinese state TV a year after Daryl Morey Hong Kong tweet controversy


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NBA basketball returned to Chinese state television on Saturday morning with game five of the NBA Finals broadcast live on CCTV-5.
CCTV announced the return in a statement on Friday, a year after broadcasts ceased amid the fallout from Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting Hong Kong’s anti-government protesters on October 4, 2019.
“During the recent Chinese National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations, the NBA sent their well wishes to fans in China,” CCTV said in a statement. “We also took note of the league has been continuously delivering goodwill, particularly making positive contributions to Chinese people’s fight against Covid-19 pandemic.”
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The NBA donated medical equipment worth 18.5 million yuan (US$2.72 million) to hospitals in Wuhan since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, state media reported.
NBA games have been screened in China since the 1990s but had been off air on Chinese terrestrial television for the duration of the 2019-20 season.
CCTV refused to broadcast the preseason NBA China Games between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets, which took place in Shanghai and Shenzhen last October, and then maintained their blackout throughout the season.
The broadcaster then doubled down on that stance when announcing in May that they would not show the NBA once it returned from its coronavirus-enforced hiatus.
“China Central Television refutes rumours that it would restore streaming NBA games, reiterating its consistent stance on national sovereignty,” it stated.
That changed with game five of the NBA Finals, which could have been the decider in the series between the Lakers and the Miami Heat. Los Angeles went into the game leading 3-1 in the series.
While CCTV had refused to back down, the NBA’s streaming partner in China, Tencent, broadcast most of the regular season and all of the play-offs but for the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets have been off screens all season since Morey’s tweet and their games were not covered online for much of it until box scores returned in recent months. They played the Lakers in the second round of the play-offs.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver was confident back in February the league would return to CCTV.
“Our games have not returned to CCTV, the government broadcaster,” Silver said at the NBA All-Star Weekend. “My sense is they will at some point in the future. We are not pressing them. It’s a decision that is outside of certainly our control and I’m often not even sure where that decision lies.
“I know that, from the data we look at, there continues to be enormous interest for the NBA in China,” Silver said. “And my sense is that there will be a return to normalcy fairly soon, but I can’t say exactly when, when it comes to CCTV.”
The one-year anniversary of Morey’s tweet – a picture with the words “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong” – was last Sunday.
In July, the English Premier League was taken off air by CCTV when they moved a game between Liverpool and Chelsea from the terrestrial CCTV-5 to the digital CCTV-5+.
Some 4,000 NBA fans, including former New York Knicks star Stephon Marbury, attended a league-organised screening party for game four of the NBA Finals at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai on Wednesday.
This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.
Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
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