10th October, 2019
The on-going trade war between the United States and China has assumed a new dimension with a serious challenge now brewing between the NBA and its Chinese partners right now over a team manager’s controversial tweet about Hong Kong.
Virtually all of the Chinese partners of the National Basketball Association have gone on to publicly announce that they are ending or suspending their relationships with the league.
It is a well known fact that out of the 25 official partners listed on the NBA China website, 13 are Chinese businesses. As it stands right now, 11 of those companies have distanced themselves from the league amid escalating tensions between China and the NBA.
The following Chinese companies – Ctrip.com, Anta Sports, Changhong, Meiling, Dicos, EHi Car Rental, Master Kong, China Mengniu Dairy, Migu Video, WuZun and Xiaoyin Technology made announcements that they have either ended or suspended their cooperation with the NBA, according to Chinese public statements translated by CNBC.
The remaining two Chinese partners are joint venture brands that have not issued any statements yet.
Much earlier in the week, Chinese tech giant Tencent, Luckin Coffee and Vivo announced the suspension of their relationships with the NBA.
As the country with the largest population in the world and the second-largest economy, China is one of the NBA’s most important markets.
The relationship between the partners and the Association began eroding over the weekend after Houston Rockets general manger Daryl Morey tweeted in support of the anti-government protests in Hong Kong. The tweet was quickly deleted and Morey apologized, but his comments drew backlash in China.
The NBA released a statement about Morey on Sunday that was translated into Chinese for the league’s verified account on Chinese social media platform Weibo.
A CNBC translation of the post found differences between the English and Chinese version, the latter of which sparked criticism in the U.S. for its decidedly more apologetic tone.
The NBA’s commissioner, Adam Silver, apologized Tuesday for offending the league’s Chinese fans, but he stood by Morey’s right to express his opinions, saying the NBA would “protect its employees’ freedom of speech.”