With LeBron James and Kyrie Irving leading the way, the Nets’ and Lakers’ players in China for exhibition games didn’t want to be the face of the NBA’s suddenly-fraught relationship with China. The players rightfully wanted the league to speak first.
That doesn’t mean the questions are going away.
Stephen Curry — who is the face of Under Armor’s basketball shoe and clothing line, and who helps sell a lot of apparel in China — was asked on Monday how he and the league move forward in their relationship with China. Nick Friedell of ESPN had the answer.
This basically echos Adam Silver’s second statement, one where he talked about the league’s commitment to free speech, just phrased a to make it more of a “who we are as a league” comment.
For now, tensions between the NBA and China seem to be relaxing, including NBA preseason games being shown in China again. Both sides would like this story to fade from the headlines. It’s not good business for the NBA — who came off poorly from a PR perspective in the exchange — and in China the NBA is incredibly popular with youth and cutting that off starts could lead to a backlash.
However, the underlying issues, the trade concerns, the differences in cultures and how they view free speech, none of that is going away. It’s going to flare up again at some point.
Whenever that is, expect the league and the players to be better prepared with how to handle it.