NBA set to lose 'several hundred million dollars ' over HK tweet

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks to the media during a press conference at the United Center in Chicago on Feb 15, 2020.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks to the media during a press conference at the United Center in Chicago on Feb 15, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK • National Basketball Association (NBA) commissioner Adam Silver has said the league expects to lose "several hundred million dollars" due to a row with China over a tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey supporting Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters.

The NBA's Chinese sponsors cut ties in a fierce mainland backlash following Mr Morey's tweet last October, just before two NBA teams played pre-season exhibition matches in China.

State broadcaster CCTV also stopped airing NBA games for the country's millions of ardent fans and has not resumed.

"The magnitude of the loss will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars," Mr Silver told a press conference on Saturday, on the sidelines of the All-Star Weekend in Chicago.

"Probably less than US$400 million (S$557 million), maybe even less than that," he said.

However, "it's substantial", he added. "I don't want to run from that... But I don't have any sense that there's any permanent damage to our business there."

Mr Silver's labelling of the business harm to the NBA from its months-long tension with China as "substantial" was noteworthy because it put in concrete terms how much the league's relationship with China, going back to the 1970s, has meant for its bottom line.

The league's many streams of revenue include broadcasting rights, merchandise sales and admissions.

The NBA takes in roughly US$9.5 billion in annual revenues, according to a source with knowledge who was not authorised to discuss the matter publicly.

Mr Silver said that the NBA's overall financial health was sound, even though its games are not on the air in a country with hundreds of millions of fans.

The commissioner said he believed CCTV would resume airing games "at some point in the future".

Tencent, a streaming network, has been showing an average of three games a night.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2020, with the headline 'NBA set to lose 'several hundred million dollars ' over HK tweet'. Print Edition | Subscribe