NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets matches left off air on Tencent as Morey's Hong Kong remarks still inflict ire
Published: Dec 31, 2020 08:00 PM

Daryl Morey Photo: CFP

Video streaming for the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, where Daryl Morey now serves as president of basketball operations, and the Houston Rockets, Morey's former employer, has been made unavailable on Tencent Sports, which streams NBA games in China.

According to the schedule of Tencent Sports, past matchups featuring the Philadelphia 76ers and the Houston Rockets are available in text and photos format, while regular video streaming is provided for matches of other teams.

NBA China and Tencent did not respond to the Global Times enquiry as of press time.

Several insiders contacted by the Global Times said they haven't heard any official announcement from either NBA China or Tencent relating to the arrangement.

Chen, who works for a Chinese sports marketing company that partners with NBA China and several NBA players, said Tencent may drop broadcasts of 76ers and Rockets to allay the anger of Chinese NBA fans, who are disappointed with Morey's tweet in support of the Hong Kong rioters last year.

Morey's tweet on October 4 last year triggered an outcry on Chinese social media. He retweeted the slogan of the rioters in Hong Kong: "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong." 

Morey deleted the tweet, but his action was met with a strong backlash on Chinese social media and from the NBA's Chinese business partners. The subsequent cancellations or suspensions of broadcasts, sponsorships, and other deals resulted in losses of at least $200 million for the 2019-2020 season, according to ESPN.

He officially stepped down as Huston Rockets General Manager in early November and then was named president of basketball operations of Philadelphia 76ers.

Tencent Sports called off broadcasts for preseason NBA games on October 8 last year, and resumed the streaming of some preseason games a few days later, but Houston Rockets games were not included.

Tencent has been an NBA broadcast partner since 2015.

Chen doesn't think this broadcast ban will hurt Tencent. "The 76ers is not a NBA favorite, with only a small fan base in China," he told the Global Times Wednesday. "Few may feel a bit of regret for this as there are many more wonderful matches to watch."

Morey has stepped on China's red line in terms of Hong Kong affair, Tang Jianjun, a sports media scholar at the Shanghai University of Sport said. "Since Morey has not openly apologized for his wrongdoings, he should pay the costs," he noted.

China represents a significant market for the NBA. Twenty-one million fans in China tuned in for the decisive Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, making it the most-watched NBA game ever on a digital platform in China, which surpassed the 18.34 million fans who watched in the US, the Los Angeles Times reported.