When a CNN reporter asked NBA players James Harden and Russell Westbrook during a press conference how they feel about speaking on political issues after the week of controversy surrounding the NBA and China, an NBA spokesperson cut off her line of questioning.
“The NBA has always been a league that prides itself on its players and 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 in that way in the future,” CNN’s Christina Macfarlane asked.
In a video from the press conference in Japan, an off-camera spokesperson can be heard saying the players would be answering “basketball questions only.” A man then tries to take Macfarlane’s microphone, and Harden and Westbrook do not answer the question.
James Harden and Russell Westbrook were asked if they would “feel differently” about speaking on political and societal affairs because of the events with the NBA/China.
A spokesperson interrupted and informed the reporter that the players would answer basketball questions only. pic.twitter.com/zMe8uWz2hY
— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) October 10, 2019
“It’s a legitimate question,” Macfarlane replied. “This is an event that has happened this week.”
“I understand that. It’s a question that’s already been answered,” the league spokesperson shot back, before reiterating that only basketball questions were allowed.
Earlier this week, after the NBA pressured the Rockets general manager to delete a pro-Hong Kong tweet, Harden apologized for the incident.
“We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there,” he said. “For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love.”
On Wednesday evening, a coalition of Republican and Democratic members of Congress, including both Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, sent a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver saying they were “deeply concerned” how the league “caved to Chinese government demands for contrition.”