China Central Television (CCTV), the Chinese government's state broadcaster, will once again show NBA games in China after keeping the popular league off the air for more than a year as punishment for Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s support of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Morey's tweets came as several NBA teams were ready to play pre-season games in China and set off a battle in which Beijing took NBA games off the air, cost the league millions.
Chinese television will now air Game 5 of the NBA Finals, in which the Miami Heat will face off against the Los Angeles Lakers. The game is scheduled to take place on Friday night in he U.S.
According to ESPN, CCTV said it would begin re-airing games due to the league’s assistance to China in fighting COVID-19.
"During the recent Chinese National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations, the NBA sent their well wishes to fans in China," CCTV said in a statement, according to ESPN. "We also took note of the league has been continuously delivering goodwill [to China], particularly making positive contributions to Chinese people's fight against COVID-19 pandemic."
The league came under fire from China after Morey tweeted, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong."
Hours after the tweet, Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta sought to distance the organization from Morey’s tweet, saying, “Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the @NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization."
Morey’s tweet was eventually deleted, and he later clarified that his tweet did not reflect the opinions of the Rockets. Nevertheless, the tweet still elicited strong reactions, with CCTV announcing that it would stop broadcasting games. Similarly, the Chinese Basketball Association cut its ties with the Rockets.
The NBA itself called Morey’s statement “regrettable,” saying it recognized that the comments “have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China.”
Lawmakers and journalists alike criticized the league’s response, with GOP lawmakers in particular saying the events showed the NBA's business ties with China are too close.
The Rockets have been one of the most popular teams in China since picking Hall of Fame center Yao Ming first in the 2002 NBA draft.
The Hill has reached out to the NBA for comment.
The decision by China is important for the NBA and the NBA players.
Salary caps for NBA teams are expected to be lowered because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has prevented teams from playing in front of fans and will likely make playing with paid fans difficult going forward.
Losing the broadcast revenue from China has also cut into the NBA's bottom line.