CHASE CENTER — When the Golden State Warriors last played in China in 2017, forward Draymond Green called the reception they got from fans, “unfiltered love.”
Given the NBA’s recent run-in with the Communist country’s notorious censorship and sensitivity to criticism, Green could be forgiven for filtering his comments about the weeklong backlash to a tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. Instead, on Thursday, he said that he and other NBA players won’t restrain themselves from taking on matters of public interest.
”I think any issue that touches you, per se, guys are going to speak out about it,” Green said before Golden State’s exhibition against the Timberwolves. “When you speak out on an issue, it’s America, so you have freedom of speech. You never really seen a reaction like this because we all understand that it’s America. Whatever your position is on a certain thing, if you want to take that position, you take that position.”
Green’s comments come one day after President Donald Trump mocked Warriors head coach Steve Kerr for his answer to a question about the controversy surrounding a since-deleted tweet from Morey supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
Last Friday, Morey tweeted “Fight for Freedom. Stand for Hong Kong,” in the wake of citizens of Hong Kong protesting against a new extradition law which threatens to send criminals to mainland China in order to face trial. Activists saw this law as an infringement upon their existing rights, as Hong Kong — due to its complex history — has maintined separate governing and economic systems from China. He quickly deleted the tweet and issued an apology.
League commissioner Adam Silver — who had continued the league’s decades-long push to develop the Chinese market —initially issued a statement soft-pedaling criticism of the autocratic Chinese government in the wake of the tweet, saying that the league recognized “that the views expressed … have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable.” Kerr — normally outspoken on public issues and politics — preferred not to discuss the matter, before Silver released another statement, giving the league’s full-throated commitment to free speech and expression.
”The way that Adam has acted in this situation is no different than how he’s acted in any other situation that’s taken place over the course of his tenure,” Green said. “He stayed true to exactly who he is, who he’s been, and I have respect for that.”
China has since taken a number of steps to distance itself from the NBA. Jinjiang, China-based Anta — which counts Klay Thompson as one of its endorsers — is suspending contract renewal negotiations with the NBA. According to Reuters, the company “opposes any action that harms China’s interests,” and was reportedly “dissatisfied” with comments by Morey and league officials.
Tencent — a Chinese international business conglomerate with interests in venture capital, social networking, music, gaming, telecommunication, e-commerce and investment — suspended its deal with the NBA (along with Chinese firms Vivo and CCTV) to stream this fall’s preseason games taking place in the country. Two NBA Cares events in China were also canceled, and media availability for the teams in Shanghai — the Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets — was suspended.
Green has not had dealings with a Chinese company since he held a live chat on Tencent-owned microblogging site Weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter) during a push for the All-Star Game in 2014-15. He said he needs to read more in-depth on the dynamic between China and Hong Kong — which, from 1846 until 1997, had enjoyed a level of semi-autonomy and self-rule under the British — before comenting further.
The tweet and its aftermath, though, have underscored for Green the differences between China and the United States.
“Clearly, it’s a different country, and they react differently to someone taking a position,” Green said. “So when you see the position that was taken, I’m sure [Morey] didn’t think that it would cause this, because you’re typically doing what an American does, which, if you have an opinion, and you want to speak on something, you speak on it.
“I think it’s the first time that he actually spoke on another country, and you kind of see the difference in the countries. Which, I’m sure nobody expected it to be this. But, like I said, it’s two completely different countries that’s on different ends of the spectrum. It’s been very interesting to see and learn about, to try learning about. It’s a big difference from what you experience on a day-to-day basis, being in America.
“That’s just part of being in America. You operate in the manner in which Americans do. That’s kind of what happened. It just happened to involve a completely different country. That’s not what they do. It’s been interesting to see.”