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Lakers-Nets game in Shanghai tips off amid row over HK tweet

Credit: Reuters - Politics
Published on October 10, 2019 - Duration: 02:19s

Lakers-Nets game in Shanghai tips off amid row over HK tweet

Thousands of Chinese fans cheered and clapped through an NBA exhibition game in Shanghai on Thursday after days of controversy and online vitriol over a now-deleted tweet by a team manager backing anti-China protests in Hong Kong.

Yahaira Jacquez reports.

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Lakers-Nets game in Shanghai tips off amid row over HK tweet

A warm welcome for Lebron James in Shanghai, as the NBA superstar arrived for a Thursday night game that - at one point - appeared to be in jeopardy.

The NBA and China are embroiled in a tense standoff after a controversial pro-Hong Kong tweet from the General Manager of the Houston Rockets set off a firestorm.

Still, the show went on.

While the LA Lakers and Brooklyn Nets warmed up inside the arena, outside, Chinese fans carried national flags in a show of support for their country.

(SOUND BITE) (Mandarin) SHANGHAI RESIDENT, STUDENT AND LA LAKERS FAN, 16, XIAO ZHENGJIE, SAYING: "If I get emotional while watching the match, I might raise my flag and wave it with my hand.

I just want to express some patriotic feelings as a member of the youth audience.

But while the game tipped off Thursday, it was unlike any other NBA preseason game in China.

Workers tore down massive banners advertising it and all the usual media sessions with the players were canceled.

Plus, state broadcaster CCTV and Tencent said they would not broadcast the game, underscoring the severity of the backlash.

The Hong Kong protests - which began in opposition to a bill allowing extradition to mainland China - have evolved into broader calls for democracy.

Though, China has accused the West of stirring up anti-Beijing sentiment in Hong Kong, and Chinese state media has characterized Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's tweet as the latest example of the West meddling in China's own affairs.

This week, NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke out in support of Morey's freedom of expression, further angering Beijing.

Meanwhile, Houston Rockets sneakers and other merchandise were pulled from several Nike and NBA stores in major Chinese cities.

Managers at some of the Nike stores said they had been instructed to remove Rockets merchandise in an internal memo from management.

The stakes are high for NBA, whose business in China took years to cultivate and is said to be worth more than $4 billion.

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