NBA-China Relations: Nets Owner Declares Past Tensions Resolved

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Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai is optimistic about the NBA’s improved ties with China since the fallout from remarks during the 2019 Hong Kong protests.

Speaking at a sports convention in Macau, Tsai highlighted the strides made in repairing the once-strained ties between the US basketball league and China, a nation boasting a staggering 300 million NBA fans. 

Tsai, who also serves as the chairman of Chinese tech behemoth Alibaba Group, emphasized that the NBA’s significant fan base in China positions the league favorably for future endeavors.

The rift between the NBA and China emerged in 2019 when Daryl Morey, then-general manager of the Houston Rockets, expressed support for anti-government protests in Hong Kong through a tweet. 

In response, Beijing quickly took action by suspending the airing of NBA matches, leading to a hiatus that lasted for a year before Chinese state television eventually resumed the broadcast of these games.

NBA’s Desire for Reintegration

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Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai is optimistic about the NBA’s improved ties with China since the fallout from remarks during the 2019 Hong Kong protests.

Tsai acknowledged the past tensions but asserted that they are now water under the bridge, signaling a desire to move forward collaboratively. He expressed the NBA’s eagerness to reintroduce games to China and Macau, citing the importance of fostering real, in-person interactions between fans and basketball stars.

Despite previous efforts by the NBA to organize pre-season games in China, these initiatives have yet to resume following the 2019 incident. 

The NBA’s stance reflects a broader trend among US sports organizations navigating diplomatic complexities arising from issues involving executives and players, which can incite backlash and strain international relations.

Recent events, such as Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi’s absence from a highly anticipated match in Hong Kong, underscore the delicate balance sports entities must maintain when navigating political sensitivities. 

As the NBA seeks to rebuild and expand its presence in China, Tsai’s remarks signify a renewed commitment to fostering mutual understanding and engagement between the league and its vast Chinese fan base.

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