Adam Silver was asked in an interview with Bob Costa of CNN how the NBA reconciles its messaging of social justice domestically with its ongoing relationship with China.
"We reconcile it, and I know you told me to be a little bit shorter, but I'll give it a little bit of context," said Silver.
"We've been operating in China for 40 years now. And when, in the late 70s, when we first made a decision, obviously before I got to the NBA, it was really Abe Pollin, then the owner of the Washington Bullets, brought his team over to play in Beijing, there was a decision that it was good for the world to build these relationships through sports. I think no different than dozens of Olympics that you've been involved in.
"And the though was these cultural exchanges were critically important especially in times when normal channels weren't operating for diplomatic conversations. As the years have gone on, theNBA has increased its presence in China but always, until very recent history, at the encouragement of the State Department, of various administrations again from both sides of the aisle, that it was viewed as a really positive thing: that we were exporting American values to China through the NBA. There are definitely tradeoffs there. And somebody can say, you know, given the system of government in China, you, the NBA, should make a decision not to operate there.
"I would only say, at the end of the day, I think those decisions are for our government, in terms of where American businesses should operate. I continue to believe that the people to people exchanges we're seeing by playing in China are positive and it's helping. It helps cultures learn about each other. Again, it allows us to export American values to China. Those values came to an abrupt stop in certain cases when there was a Tweet by a general manager - and I'm losing track of seasons - I guess it was still this season, it was when this season that we're still in began, there was a Test by a general manager and as a result of that Tweet, we, the NBA, were taken off CCTV, Chinese Central Television in China.
"Now, we could've decided, because they took us off Chinese Central Television, that we should therefore, in essence, take our ball and go home and stop operating there.
"The fact is our games continue to be streamed on a service called Tencent in China. We've continued in there. At least, that's my view that it's been net positive to not move to disengagement, that that's not good for the world and that superpowers like the U.S. and China need to find ways to continue to operate together."