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NBA and Tsai ‘optimistic’ over return of CCTV coverage

Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets in action against the Milwaukee Bucks (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Brooklyn Nets owner Joseph Tsai has expressed his desire for Chinese state broadcaster CCTV to resume its coverage of the NBA basketball league amid the continued fallout caused by a tweet sent last year by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.

The swiftly-deleted tweet, sent in October, included an image that read “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong” in reference to the protests in the city against the role of the Chinese state in local governance.

The tweet has led to a strained relationship between the NBA and China. Chinese media rights to the league are held by CCTV and conglomerate Tencent. The latter resumed its coverage of the league but CCTV is yet to follow suit.

Bloomberg, citing a person familiar with the matter, said the league is optimistic CCTV will resume its coverage for the NBA All-Star Game on February 16.

Tsai told Bloomberg: “Once you are on the air, everything will come back.”

The NBA and Tencent agreed a five-year extension to their current deal, which will now run through to the 2024-25 season, in July 2019. Upon the resumption of its NBA coverage, Tencent did not show the Houston Rockets matches.

Last month, CCTV removed the Arsenal-Manchester City English Premier League game from its schedule because of comments made by Arsenal midfielder Mesut Özil on Twitter. The German player had criticised China for the country’s controversial policies towards its Muslim Uighur minority, and other Muslims for staying silent on the subject.

Tsai, who co-founded Chinese internet company Alibaba, completed a takeover of the Nets and Barclays Center last September. The deal for the two properties was worth a reported $3.5bn (€3.2bn).