The scandal surrounding the NBA’s relationship with China escalated on Thursday after a CNN reporter tried to ask a question about the controversy to the Houston Rockets’ James Harden and Russell Westbrook—and was quickly shut down. At the press conference, journalist Christina Macfarlane asked: “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 of this week and the fallout we’ve seen, whether you would both feel differently about speaking out that way in future.” But a handler from the sidelines interrupted: “Um, excuse me, we’re taking basketball questions now, alright?” Macfarlane responded: “It’s a legitimate question. This is an event that’s happened this week, during the NBA—this particular question has not been answered. James?” Then someone can be seen taking her microphone away.
The dust-up began when Rockets general manager Daryl Morey sent out a tweet last week voicing his support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, which lead to fury, canceled events, and financial repercussions from the Chinese government—and an apology from Morey. Earlier this week, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement claiming that the league would not be getting in the business of censoring its players.