NBA blocks players from answering questions about China controversy
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Officials with the NBA on Thursday blocked players with the Houston Rockets from answering a reporter's question related to the ongoing China-Hong Kong controversy. 

CNN reporter Christina Macfarlane asked James Harden and Russell Westbrook if they would "feel differently" about NBA-affiliated people speaking out about political or societal affairs after this week's dispute, which began when the Rockets' general manager voiced support for Hong Kong protesters in a since-deleted tweet. 

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"The NBA has always been a league that prides itself on its players and its coaches being able to speak out openly about political and societal affairs. I just wonder, after the events this week and the fallout we've seen, whether you would both feel differently about speaking out that way in the future?" the reporter attempted to ask.

An NBA spokesperson prevented the players from answering, saying they would answer "basketball questions only."

"It's a legitimate question," the reporter replied. "This is an event that happened this week during the NBA."

The microphone was subsequently taken from the reporter, and the NBA spokesperson asked if there were any more questions. 

The NBA apologized to the reporter later Thursday saying the spokesperson "inappropriately interjected."

"We've apologized to Ms. Macfarlane as this was inconsistent with how the NBA conducts media events," NBA chief spokesperson Michael Bass said in a statement.

The NBA has been facing bipartisan criticism over its response to Houston general manager Daryl Morey voicing support for Hong Kong protesters. The NBA called Morey's tweet "regrettable" after it "deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China."

Fans and lawmakers alike have ripped the league, accusing it of trying to stifle free speech and siding with an authoritarian regime over pro-democracy advocates.

Since June, Hong Kong has been experiencing protests against mainland China in the most heated unrest the semi-autonomous region has seen in years.

Updated at 5:03 p.m.