The Houston Rockets have apologized for shutting down a CNN reporter’s question about the NBA-China controversy, during a Thursday press conference.
CNN reporter Christina Macfarlane asked Rockets guards James Harden and Russell Westbrook if either of them would reconsider speaking out on social issues, given China’s angry response to a now-deleted tweet from Rockets GM Daryl Morey in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.
“The NBA has always been a league that prides itself on its players and coaches being able to speak out openly about political and social affairs. I just wonder after the events of this week, and the fallout we’ve seen, whether you would both feel differently about speaking out in that way in the future?” asked Macfarlane.
As Breitbart’s Joshua Caplan reported earlier on Thursday:
An NBA staffer is heard off-camera interjecting that the players are taking ‘basketball questions only.’ A man is then seen reaching to remove the microphone from the reporter’s hands.
‘It’s a legitimate question,’ Macfarlane replied. ‘This is an event that has happened this week.’
‘I understand that. It’s a question that’s already been answered,’ the league spokesperson shot back, before reiterating that only basketball questions were allowed.
The exchange between Macfarlane and the Rockets media relations person was well-circulated on social media. Shortly after, the Rockets issues an apology for the incident, claiming that the Macfarlane’s question should have been allowed.
NBA statement on Rockets not permitting Russell Westbrook & James Harden from answering a question about off the court issues. pic.twitter.com/4GCY83fd5g
— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) October 10, 2019
The incident marks yet another public relations blunder for the league. On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, fans displaying pro-Hong Kong messages at NBA arenas – in America – were either removed or had their signs confiscated by stadium security.
All of this following on the heels of a strong, bipartisan backlash against the league’s initial response regarding Morey’s tweet, in which the league called the offense caused by the pro-democracy message, “regrettable.”
That response has fueled a week-long controversy that has put the NBA’s standing in China, and America, in varying degrees of doubt.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn