Chinese customers of Tencent have sought streaming subscription refunds after the exclusive provider said it was stopping the broadcasting of the entire preseason NBA games in China.
Tencent had initially said it would stop broadcasting of NBA pre-season games involving Houston Rockets after the team's general manager Daryl Morey voiced his support for the Hong Kong protesters in a controversial tweet over the weekend.
The sequence of events started on Friday when NBA team Houston Rockets' General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted a post that read "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong. In the immediate backlash, Chinese businesses cancelled sponsorship deals while the Chinese Basketball Association said it was suspending association with the Rockets.
While Tencent said it would stop broadcasting games other companies like Smartphone maker Vivo, state-run broadcaster CCTV and sportswear maker ANTA Sports Products also joined the bandwagon.
Even as the Chinese criticism of Rockets' manager's comments snowballed, the NBA team explained that it did not share the views of the official. Though NBA initially tried to distance itself with the free speech row, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said on Tuesday he supports Morey's views on "freedom of political expression".
This led Tencent to say it would stop broadcasting the entire NBA pre-season games in China. According to Reuters, some 500 million people had watched NBA games on Tencent's video platform during the last season.
Tencent had spent a rumoured US$1.5 billion in July to extend its NBA partnership through 2024-2025 season. Tencent is in for major financial pinch if several million customers seek refunds.
The NBA free speech row also triggered a backlash against the sport's governing body in the US as well. Morey's tweet in support of the protesters in the former British colony who are resisting Chinese efforts to further restrict their dwindling freedoms was not exactly a gross violation of any NBA code.
Many in the Us pointed out that the National Basketball Association was capitulating before the financial prowess of China when it refused to support to Morey.