NBA and China: Americans say free speech should win

Graeme BruceBusiness Data Journalist
October 16, 2019, 9:24 PM GMT+0

Most (66%) Americans say they believe the National Basketball Association should prioritize freedom of speech over its own business interests, according to new YouGov data.

Those findings comes amid the league’s run-in with China sparked by an Oct. 4 tweet sent out by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters.

When asked if the NBA should prioritize freedom of speech for its employees more or its business interests overseas more, only 8 percent of YouGov respondents said the league should prioritize its business interests, while more than a quarter (26%) said they don’t know.

For the NBA, China is big business. NBA China, which launched 10 years ago, is worth $4 billion, according to Forbes.

The NBA-China drama played out further this week after league superstar LeBron James said Morey was “misinformed” about the protests in Hong Kong, which have now been going on for more than four months."I just think that when you're misinformed or you're not educated about something -- and I'm just talking about the tweet itself -- you never know the ramifications that can happen. We all see what that did -- not only for our league but for all of us in America, for people in China as well," LeBron said on Monday.

Meanwhile, the NBA brand in the United States has suffered during its row with China. Attention has almost doubled since Morey’s now-deleted tweet went out, but Buzz (a YouGov metric which measures positive and negative attention) is trending in a negative direction.

Further, YouGovSport looked at those same metrics in China and similar trends appear: Attention has shot up while Buzz has dipped.

Methodology: For free speech-versus-business question, 2059 US adults were questioned on Oct 11, 2019. Results are weighted to be representative of the US population.

Image: Getty