SHANGHAI (AP/CBSLA) – Despite a very real risk that it would be canceled, the Los Angeles Lakers preseason tilt against the Brooklyn Nets went forward Thursday in Shanghai amid the firestorm of controversy sparked by a tweet sent by an NBA executive last week expressing support for pro-Democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
The game at Mercedes Benz Arena took place despite a condition from the Chinese government that Lakers and Nets players, along with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, be barred from speaking to the media, according to ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols.
The Nets won the game, which concluded just before 7 a.m. Pacific time, 114-111, although the result was greatly overshadowed by the unfolding political scandal which has enveloped the NBA.
Neither the U.S. nor the Chinese national anthems were played, and players did not address the crowd prior to tip-off. However, nearly every seat in the 18,000-seat arena appeared filled. While the game aired in the U.S., Chinese state broadcaster CCTV did not broadcast it in China.
The two teams will also face off Saturday in Shenzhen.
Nichols reported that sponsorship logos were scrubbed off the court ahead of the game. Earlier this week, several Chinese companies suspended ties with the NBA following last week’s tweet from Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey showing support for anti-government demonstrators in Hong Kong.
The NBA had already called off scheduled media sessions Wednesday for both teams. At least two other NBA events to be held Wednesday before the start of the China games were canceled as well.
Late Wednesday in Washington, a bipartisan group of lawmakers — including the rare alignment of Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York — sent a letter to Silver saying the NBA should show the “courage and integrity” to stand up to the Chinese government. They asked the NBA to, among other things, suspend activities in China until what they called the selective treatment against the Rockets ends.
“You have more power to take a stand than most of the Chinese government’s targets and should have the courage and integrity to use it,” the lawmakers told Silver. The NBA did not have any immediate comment on the letter, and it was unclear if Silver had even seen the document.
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe effort to raise money for free t-shirts supporting Hong Kong’s pro-Democracy efforts raised nearly $43,000 in just two days. Organizer Sun Lared said the t-shirts will be handed out at the season opener between the Lakers and Clippers at Staples Center on Oct. 22.
“China is trying to censor the Houston Rockets (update: and now the ENTIRE NBA) because of Hong Kong,” organizer Sun Lared wrote. “Wouldn’t it be hilarious if on opening night in Staples Center the NBA fanbase made a collective demonstration against censorship by wearing “STAND WITH HONG KONG” T-Shirts?”
In terms of the events which took place on the court, Nets guard Kyrie Irving was forced to leave the game just a minute after tip-off when he took an elbow to the face. Irving was attempting to play through a facial fracture, an injury that occurred in a pickup game last month. He was wearing a clear mask.
The Lakers played both LeBron James and Anthony Davis 25 minutes each. James finished with 20 points and six rebounds, while Davis finished with 16 points, five assists and two blocks.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)