Starting next month, Ma will take on the difficult position of trying to fix relations with the Chinese government after the league faced a backlash in the country last year. The Chinese state television network CCTV has not yet broadcast NBA games in the country because of this dispute.
The controversy started last October, when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong. His post, which was quickly deleted, included an image that said “Fight for freedom, stay with Hong Kong”.
The former British colony, now a special administrative region of China, had been shaken by months of political unrest.
The position of the NBA became increasingly uncomfortable as that week unfolded. Fans in China have called for Morey’s dismissal, while US politicians have urged the NBA to uphold its moral values.
In the end, the league was rejected by both sides when Commissioner Adam Silver claimed to support Morey “in terms of his ability to exercise his freedom of expression.”
CCTV immediately stopped its NBA broadcasts in response, indicating “strong dissatisfaction” with Silver’s comments.
, who is the NBA’s exclusive digital partner in China, temporarily stopped showing games on its platform before quietly resuming live programming in October. The tech company did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday when asked about its current ties to the NBA.
The new NBA appointment this week may not be enough to convince CCTV to resume broadcasting the NBA games once the pandemic subsides. (The current NBA season was originally scheduled for June, but suspended in March due to the virus. It is unclear when or if the season will resume.)
“CCTV Sports Channel has had no contacts and interactions with the NBA. When it comes to Chinese sovereignty issues, CCTV Sports Channel’s position is solemn, clear and consistent and there will be no room for ambiguity or flexibility,” he wrote. the net in a raging post on Weibo
, The Chinese platform similar to Twitter.
Morey’s requests for “punishment” have been confirmed again by the Chinese state media.
“Naming [a] the Chinese native as head of the NBA China is not ‘enough’, “he wrote in a state-run Chinese press release article
Tuesday. “Commentators and prominent fans have noted that if he wants to return to the Chinese market, he should properly manage Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.”
The NBA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Rebuilding the relationship with Beijing will be the top priority for the new Chinese CEO of the NBA, noted Weisheng Chiu, assistant professor of sports management at the Hong Kong Open University.
“This is the first task for Michael Ma, and I also think this will be the most demanding task for him,” he said.
But Ma also has an advantage because of his personal background, according to Chiu.
According to the Chinese state media
Ma is the son of Ma Guoli, who co-founded the CCTV sports channel and helped “introduce NBA live games to CCTV in the 1990s”. His father is also a renowned basketball executive and adviser to former NBA star and Rockets legend Yao Ming, who now leads the Chinese Basketball Association.
Elder Ma has now resigned as a consultant for Yao, citing “personal reasons”, a state-run news agency Xinhua
“It’s a very smart move for the NBA championship,” hiring Michael Ma said Chiu. “He’s probably the best candidate for the position … I think this will help the league rebuild the relationship and expand the market in the future.”