The league has spent years and many millions of dollars investing in China, helping to build courts, giving broadcasting rights away for free and bringing its stars over for preseason games.
Here’s how the NBA’s crisis unfolded.
Friday, Oct. 4: The tweet heard round the world
Hours later, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, responded:
Sunday, Oct. 6: The reaction in China
Monday, Oct. 7: NBA’s initial response sparks outrage
“While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them,” NBA said in a statement, adding: “We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.”
The response was been criticized by several US politicians — both Democrats and Republicans.
“It’s clear that the NBA is more interested in money than human rights,” said Senator Rick Scott, a Republican from Florida, on Twitter. “The NBA is kowtowing to Beijing to protect their bottom line and disavowing those with the temerity to #standwithHongKong. Shameful!”
Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat from Texas who is running for the party’s presidential nomination in 2020, called the NBA’s response “an embarrassment.”
Morey also responded on Twitter, saying he was speaking on his own behalf and not for the NBA:
“Chinese citizens stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China and the country’s sovereignty over her homeland. This issue is non-negotiable,” he said.
Tuesday, Oct. 8: The NBA responds again. Backlash grows
“The NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say,” Silver said in the statement. “We simply could not operate that way.”
The league’s initial response was criticized by some fans and US politicians for appearing to compromise its principles, and condemned by others in China for offending national sensibilities.
“I do know there are consequences from freedom of speech; we will have to live with those consequences,” Silver said. “For those who question our motivation, this is about far more than growing our business,” he added.
In response, CCTV said it has “decided to immediately halt” broadcasts of the basketball league’s preseason matches in China after it expressed its “strong dissatisfaction” over Silver’s statement on Morey’s tweet. The broadcaster is also reviewing its broader relationship with the NBA.
“We express our strong dissatisfaction and opposition to Silver’s stated support of Morey’s right to free speech. We believe any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability do not belong to the category of free speech,” the network said. “We will also immediately examine all other cooperation and exchanges with the NBA.”
Tencent also said it would suspend live streaming for two NBA preseason games in China.
Wednesday, Oct. 9: Every one of the NBA’s partners in China suspends ties
Fast-food chain Dicos also said it planned to suspend “all marketing and publicity activities” with the league, while the skin care brand Wzun said it would “terminate all cooperation with the NBA.”
Changhong Electric, a major home appliance group listed as a partner on NBA China’s website, said that it felt “strong indignation to Morey’s indifferent attitude and refusal to apologize,” while Chinese sportswear giant Anta declared that it “firmly opposes and resists all acts that harm the interests of the motherland.”
Two NBA developmental games have already been canceled, as well as a fan appreciation night.
CNN Business’ Charles Riley, Michelle Toh, Laura He and Chris Isidore contributed to this report.