Adam Silver: NBA’s return to Chinese national TV has been ‘positive’

Society & Culture

Meanwhile: With her Round of 16 run at the French Open, Zheng Qinwen may have announced herself as China's newest sports star.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has described the National Basketball Association’s return to Chinese televisions as a positive development for the league’s prospects in China.

Speaking to media on Thursday ahead of Game 1 of the NBA finals between Golden State and Boston, Silver described how the league lost “hundreds of millions” after it was pulled from CCTV after Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted in support of the anti-government protests in Hong Kong in October 2019.

The NBA, which has made sporadic appearances on Chinese TV while still maintaining its presence on online streaming platforms, returned full-time to CCTV in March.

“I think engagement is positive, particularly through sports,” Silver said. “Using sports as a platform to keep people around the world talking is critically important. At the same time, I don’t think it’s inconsistent with our values for our game to be broadcast in China and 200-plus other countries in the world.

“Others since then have spoken out about their views around China and other places in the world, and if the consequences are that we’re taken off the air or we lose money, we accept that.”

One of those people who has spoken out is Enes Kanter Freedom, the former Boston Celtics player who has criticized the Chinese government for its repression of Uyghurs and called for a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics. China’s response to Freedom (who officially changed his name from Enes Kanter when he became an American citizen last November) was subdued compared to the Moray affair: Celtics games were temporarily removed from streaming services.

Freedom, who was waived by the Rockets in February, said his release was due to his activism.

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Zheng Qinwen makes dream French Open run

Although Zhèng Qīnwén’s 郑钦文 French Open ended in the fourth round on Monday — she lost to eventual champion (and world No. 1) Iga Swiatek 6-7, 6-0, 6-2 — the 19-year-old’s performance may have minted her as China’s newest tennis star.

Zheng, who was suffering from menstrual cramps — “It’s just girls’ things, you know,” as she put it — became only the second person since March to take a set off Swiatek, who is on a 31-match winning streak. Zheng was the only woman to take a set off Swiatek all tournament.

Playing in her first French Open, Zheng’s run to the last 16 included wins against the more experienced Maryna Zanevska, home favorite Alizé Cornet, and former French Open and Wimbledon champion Simona Halep.

The Halep victory in the second round stands out as the most memorable, after Zheng fought back after a shaky start against the former world No. 1 to win 2-6, 6-2, 6-1.

Zheng has said that her idol is Lǐ Nà 李娜, who became Asia’s first Grand Slam champion in 2011 when she won at Roland Garros. The two hail from the same city: Wuhan.

“She gave me a dream that, oh, the Asian player, the Chinese player, also can [win] the Grand Slam,” Zheng has said about Li. “In that moment that I have the dream in my heart that I want to do it like her.”

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