Full house for NBA game despite boycott push

Top News | Stella Wong and agencies 11 Oct 2019

Chinese basketball fans displayed their patriotism outside an NBA pre-season game, which drew a full house despite an online call for a boycott by mainlanders.

The game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets was held as scheduled in Shanghai, but all accompanying press events were canceled amid a backlash from China against the NBA.

This comes after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey posted a tweet last week that included an image and the words: "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong."

Morey later deleted the tweet and said he did not intend to offend Chinese fans and sponsors.

Before the match yesterday, some people distributed national flags to basketball fans. One held a sign reading: "I love China, I love Hong Kong. Hong Kong is part of China forever."

Some fans took photos with a sign that blamed Morey with foul language.

Mainland web users called for fans to boycott the match under a post by the NBA on its Weibo account yesterday morning that the game would go on.

"I am determined not to go, and I will not watch the match even if I will be beaten to death. I hope there will be no Chinese audience inside the stadium," one commented.

"Every name of those who go to watch the match will be noted. Each of you will be nailed on the pillar of shame," said another.

But a fan named Li took a 10-hour train trip from Nanchang in Jiangxi province to watch the game in Shanghai, saying: "The crisis outside the basketball court cannot affect my love toward the basketball players."

The NBA canceled the post-match interview with the players and coaches. Earlier, it canceled a press conference, a fan evening and other promotional events featuring the teams.

The two teams are also set to compete in Shenzhen tomorrow. Neither of the pre-season games held in China will be broadcast by CCTV and Tencent Sport.

At least 11 of 25 official partners announced cutting their ties with the NBA, including travel services provider Ctrip, food producer Master Kong and Mengniu Dairy.

Houston Rockets sneakers and other merchandise were pulled from several Nike and NBA stores in Chinese cities.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver arrived in Shanghai on Wednesday hoping to meet with Chinese officials to "find mutual respect for each other's political systems and beliefs" amid the escalating rift with China. Sources said he met Yao Ming, chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association and a former Rockets player.

US President Donald Trump climbed in on Wednesday, criticizing the reaction of Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who are both vocal critics of Trump’s policies.

"They talk badly about the United States, but when it talks about China, they don’t want to say anything bad,” Trump said.

Kerr earlier said he had no comment on the NBA dispute, adding "it is a really bizarre international story and a lot of us don’t know what to make of it", while Popovich praised Silver for backing the freedom of speech.

stellast.wong@singtaonewscorp.com

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