In the news conference following the Rockets-Raptors preseason game in Tokyo, a reporter from CNN asked the pair if they would “feel differently about speaking out” on issues because of recent events.
A member of the Rockets media relations staff interrupted, saying the players were taking basketball-related questions only.
“A team representative inappropriately interjected to prevent CNN’s Christina Macfarlane from receiving an answer to her question,” the league said in a statement issued Thursday. “We’ve apologized to Ms. Macfarlane as this was inconsistent with how the NBA conducts media events.”
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey set off the controversy by posting a tweet — that has since been deleted — supporting anti-government protests in Hong Kong.
China has reacted strongly to the comments, canceling events surrounding the Lakers’ and Nets’ visit to the country for two preseason games. The games themself were in jeopardy; however, the teams did meet in Shanghai Thursday with certain restrictions. Postgame media availability with players was canceled, and a scheduled news conference with commissioner Adam Silver was scrapped. The game was not shown on TV in China.
Silver, speaking in Japan on Tuesday, said he and the league are “apologetic” over the reaction that followed Morey’s tweet but noted that “we are not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression.”
Harden has also commented on the situation.
On Monday, standing with Westbrook after a practice in Tokyo, Harden said: “We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there. For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love.”
“We appreciate them as a fan base. We love everything there about them, and we appreciate the support that they give us individually and as [an] organization.”
On Wednesday, he said: “We all have freedom of speech, that is the world we live in. Everyone should (say) how they feel and their thought process, be able to speak it. Obviously some people are going to feel some type of ways, others are going to agree. That is just the world we live in. I am here for Adam Silver.”
The protests in Hong Kong were sparked by a proposed extradition law that would have allowed suspects to be sent to China to face trial. Activists saw that as a threat to the legal rights that Hong Kong residents have under the current “one country, two systems” framework.