- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 9, 2019

A new report published Tuesday found sports network ESPN has banned their television personalities from discussing Chinese politics this week while talking about China’s conflict with the NBA and Houston Rockets.

The NBA has been steeped in controversy after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey accidentally created an international conflict when he tweeted a picture showing solidarity for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

Mr. Morey deleted and apologized for the tweet, but it led China’s state broadcaster to cancel plans to show a pair of preseason games in their country.


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ESPN discussions have been directed at Mr. Morey, whether he’ll keep his job and how it could effect the team’s bottom line, rather than the actual conflict in Hong Kong — and that is reportedly by design.

Deadspin reported that Chuck Salituro — the senior news director for ESPN — sent a memo forbidding discussion about Chinese politics or the Hong Kong protests on their programming. Additionally, sources told Deadspin that network executives are closely watching how the controversy is discussed on their air waves.



ESPN has gone back and forth on how to cover stories where both sports and politics collide. Back in 2018, ESPN’s president Jimmy Pitaro said ESPN should be covering the “intersection between sports and politics.”

“When you tune into ESPN, we should be, we need to be covering those stories, if there is a connection to sports,” he said.

Mr. Pitaro appeared to change his stance in May, telling The Los Angeles Times, “our data tells us our fans do not want us to cover politics.”

“My job is to provide clarity. I really believe that some of our talent was confused on what was expected of them. If you fast-forward to today, I don’t believe they are confused,” he said.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver defended Mr. Morey Tuesday, saying the league is not apologizing for Mr. Morey because he “enjoys that right” of freedom of speech.

 

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