Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets closed out the preseason on Friday against the Toronto Raptors at Nassau Coliseum in New York, but it was the team’s recent trip to China that was still the focal point.
Groups of protestors attended the game wearing T-shirts that read “Stand with Hong Kong,” which was what Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted earlier this month that ignited the firestorm over the NBA’s business relationship with China.
Irving, who was not permitted to speak to media during the trip, addressed the situation with reporters for the first time following Friday’s game, and specifically addressed his role in a closed-door players meeting with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in Shanghai on Oct. 9.
“I don’t know whose notes, or who is in there that you can’t really depend on to keep a conversation like that in house — especially when it is about the NBA brand and the NBA players being impacted by it,” he said. “I stand for four things, man: inner peace, freedom, equality and world peace. So, if that is being conflicted inside of me, I am definitely going to have something to say, and I left it in that room.”
ESPN’s David McMenamin had reported that Irving wondered if they should continue to play their scheduled games in China due to the political tension.
Irving added that there were further conversations with teammates in China, and ultimately decided to “move forward and play the game.”
Nets owner Joseph Tsai was among those most vocal in condemning Morey for his tweet, penning a long Facebook post that Morey’s tweet was “damaging” to Chinese fans.
Some of the signs protestors held read “Shame on Tsai,” and the signs were removed by security, but the protestors were not asked to leave the arena.
Meanwhile, the NBA is not just dealing with fallout at home, but also with China itself.
According to the South China Morning Post, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV warned Silver could face “retribution” for defaming China and supporting Morey.
Silver faced backlash for the league’s response not being supportive of Morey, but he revealed earlier in the week that China had asked him to fire Morey, which he declined to do.
“There’s no chance we’ll even discipline him,” he said at the Time 100 Health Summit in New York.
Whether or not China’s threat of “retribution” is serious, it is clear that the issue is still far from being resolved.