NBA hires Chinese national to lead China operations after broadcast freeze

Society & Culture

Michael Ma Xiaofei (马晓飞 Mǎ Xiǎofēi) has been hired as the new head of NBA China, marking the first time a Chinese national has held the position since the NBA opened a Beijing office in 2008.

Chinese state media is still upset at the NBA as a result of Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting the Hong Kong protests last October. Both state TV and private internet companies stopped broadcasting and streaming NBA games after Morey’s tweet last year, and had not resumed when COVID-19 put an end to the season’s basketball games.

The NBA has been trying to thaw relations, but it’s been an uphill battle. The Global Times, a nationalistic newspaper, was quick to say that the hiring of Ma was “not enough to win back the mainland market.”

Chinese netizens commented on the NBA official reshuffle, and many said they could not care less about the U.S. league, unless Morey is punished for his misbehavior.

“The season is suspended due to the COVID-19 anyway, and I’m OK to continue living without the NBA,” wrote a fan on Hupu.com, a major sports website in China.

“We did not and will not forget what he has done. When the NBA and Morey own their mistakes, I will consider welcoming the league back,” wrote another.

Our sports columnist Gerry Harker has this story and more — including the bankruptcy of Chinese Super League soccer team Tianjin Tianhe — in this week’s SupChina Sports Column.