SHANGHAI—A day before a scheduled tipoff of a Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers game in Shanghai, a crisis for the National Basketball Association appeared no closer to resolution.
A player meet and greet was canceled, and a press event was postponed, a spokeswoman for the league said late Wednesday. The teams did practice and some players participated in a Special Olympics-related NBA Cares event, though one planned for Tuesday didn’t go ahead.
A tweet last week from an executive with the Houston Rockets—which are popular in China but not in the country this week—set off a political storm as it praised antigovernment protesters In Hong Kong. Chinese broadcasters and sponsors then suspended some aspects of cooperation with the NBA when its commissioner said he wouldn’t apologize for the tweet by Rockets general manager
though the league also said it was regrettable that it upset Chinese fans.
The NBA spokeswoman said she has no information about Thursday’s planned game in Shanghai.
Half-hour press events with players from the Nets and Lakers were delayed late Wednesday with no indication of whether or when they would take place. The Nets are owned by a co-founder of Chinese online merchant
Exhibition games of the NBA’s minor league were canceled in Suzhou.
In the shadow of Shanghai’s iconic Pearl Oriental Tower and adjacent to the hotel where the NBA players and officials are staying, a lone workman suspended on ropes on Wednesday afternoon was pulling down a massive poster advertising the games.
A giant Chinese flag was posted over the hotel entrance, which was flanked by fans hoping to catch a glimpse of the occasional player who filed out.
“This incident that’s happening is what no one is willing to see. But I’d like to say I am first a Chinese, secondly a basketball fan,” said
a 27-year-old hospital worker who was outside the hotel wearing a LeBron James shirt.
Photos on social media showed workers taking down posters attached to street lamps in the city. A video from a basketball club in nearby Wuxi showed a wall with the Houston Rockets logo being painted over.
In an indication of how the basketball dispute may be galvanizing some sectors of Chinese society, police in the northeastern province of Jilin said they had arrested on Sunday a 25-year-old man accused of making online “remarks that insult the national flag.”
The man was identified by police only by his family name Wang and his online screen name on the messaging service Weibo. That account showed a photo of a man wearing a Houston Rockets jersey with a cover over his eye—imagery adopted by demonstrators in Hong Kong—and holding a lighter below an upside down Chinese flag.
“I live and die with the basketball team,” the posting said.
—Yin Yijun contributed to this article.
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