The fiasco over Daryl Morey’s tweet is not yet over, but it looks like both sides may be trying to de-escalate things. On Thursday, the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers went ahead with a game scheduled in China despite officials taking down lots of NBA-related iconography.
We don’t know how long this tension will go on between the two sides, but according to a new report from The New York Times, government bureaucrats in China are trying to “tamp down” the situation among their own populace.
Now, the Chinese government appears to be reassessing its campaign against the N.B.A. and dialing down the clamor. The government is already in a bruising trade war with the United States, and a backlash against China could hurt its image in the sporting world ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics near Beijing. The dispute with the N.B.A. was also quickly politicizing an audience of sports fans who would not normally focus on issues like the protests in Hong Kong.
Editors at state news outlets have told reporters to avoid emphasizing the N.B.A. issue for fear that it might become overheated, according to interviews with three journalists on Thursday.
And even the highly nationalistic Global Times tabloid stopped pushing populist indignation over the tweet.
“I think this issue will gradually de-escalate — Global Times will not push to keep it hot,” Hu Xijin, the newspaper’s top editor, wrote in an electronic response to a request for comment. “I also hope the American side won’t make any moves to escalate it.”
Will this uproar over Hong Kong and human rights violations in China fade with time? It’s hard to say, especially in an era where because of social media, people have often stuck longer to causes once learning more about them. That’s to say nothing of the more socially-progressive fan base of the NBA.
The NBA season is almost upon us, and the goodwill trip to the communist country didn’t go very well. Regular season games start at the end of the month, and it’s anyone’s guess if we will still be talking about China by then.