ESPN's senior news director has forbidden on-air talent from discussing the political specifics of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, even as they are forced to address China's severe response to an NBA team executive who publicly supported Hong Kong demonstrators, Deadspin reported.
The sports and entertainment network has a policy of not allowing political discussion on its airwaves — a policy that apparently prevents hosts and analysts from, you know, supporting democracy over oppressive communism in a foreign country. Laura Wagner from Deadspin wrote:
What you didn't hear was much discussion about what is actually happening on the ground with protestors in Hong Kong, why they're protesting, or any other acknowledgment of China's political situation, past or present.
This could be because Chuck Salituro, the senior news director of ESPN, sent a memo to shows mandating that any discussion of the Daryl Morey story avoid any political discussions about China and Hong Kong, and instead focus on the related basketball issues. The memo, obtained by Deadspin, explicitly discouraged any political discussion about China and Hong Kong. Multiple ESPN sources confirmed to Deadspin that network higher-ups were keeping a close eye on how the topic was discussed on ESPN's airwaves.
What's all this about?
Daryl Morey, general manager of the NBA's Houston Rockets, posted a tweet Friday supporting the Hong Kong protesters. The protesters have, for several months now, been resisting creeping influence of the Communist Chinese government in Hong Kong, the former British colony that maintains a democratic form of government.
Morey's tweet caused numerous Chinese entities to sever ties with the Rockets and the NBA. Morey, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, and even Rockets star player James Harden have made apologetic statements to China.
The Hong Kong protests are not controversial in America. There probably aren't many issues in which Sen. Ted Cruz and writer Jemele Hill would agree, for example. But angering China would be very costly for businesses like the NBA and ESPN, so they will do their best to ignore why police and thousands of protesters have been violently battling in the streets of Hong Kong since June.