Tencent aired a pair of NBA preseason games on Monday after failing to broadcast two matches that were played in China last week following tweet in support of the Hong Kong protests from Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey.
A hashtag about Tencent’s broadcasting of NBA games now has more than 200 million views on Weibo with some net users celebrating basketball being back while others have expressed their outrage at Tencent so quickly “surrendering” to the league following last week’s nationalistic outburst of anger.
“Chinese cyber nationalists have been used like a chess piece once again,” reads one comment.
Tencent showing NBA preseason games is trending on Weibo and one comment made a lot of sense to me… pic.twitter.com/4D2KH7zzbA
— Christian 马思潭 (@cdcshepherd) October 14, 2019
Meanwhile, Tencent has clarified that it never said it would stop broadcasting NBA games, only that it wouldn’t broadcast the ones played in China.
The Chinese tech giant recently signed a five-year, $1.5 billion deal to become the league’s sole online streamer in China. Hundreds of millions have tuned in to watch NBA games on Tencent.
When asked about the situation at a regular press conference in Beijing on Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry said it does not comment on “the specific commercial decisions of individual businesses,” but noted that “exchanges in sports have always played an important role in promoting China-US exchanges and friendship.”
Though things appear to have mostly gone back to normal, it remains to be seen how Tencent will deal with the Rockets. Soon after Morey’s tweet, the company declared it wouldn’t be showing any Houston games and that customers who signed up for a Rockets package had been given the option to choose another team.
The Houston Rockets have long been one of China’s favorite NBA teams since drafting Yao Ming in 2002. They have title aspirations this year with one of the league’s biggest stars in James Harden, alongside former MVP Russell Westbrook.