The NBA has a new CEO in China. His first task is to catch up with Beijing

The NBA has a new CEO in China. His first task is to catch up with Beijing

Starting next month, Ma will assume the delicate position of trying to repair relations with the Chinese government after the league faced a backlash in the country last year. The Chinese public television channel CCTV has still not broadcast NBA games in the country due to the dispute.

Ma worked as CEO of Endeavor China, a leading sports talent management agency. He has also worked in the NBA in New York and Beijing for more than a decade, according to the league. He is the first Chinese citizen to lead the organization in Beijing since the creation of his office in 2008, according to Chinese state media.
The controversy began last October when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong. His message, which was quickly deleted, included an image that said, “Fight for freedom, stay with Hong Kong.”
The former British colony, which has become a special administrative region of China, was shaken by month of political unrest.

The NBA position became more and more uncomfortable during the week. Some fans in China have called for Morey’s dismissal, while American politicians have urged the NBA to maintain its moral values.

In the end, the league got backflow from both sides as Commissioner Adam Silver said, he supported Morey “in terms of his ability to exercise his freedom of expression”.
CCTV stopped immediately his NBA broadcasts in response, pointing to a “strong dissatisfaction” on the words of Silver.
Tencent ((TCEHY), which is the NBA’s exclusive digital partner in China, has also temporarily suspended the broadcasting of games on its platform before quietly resume live programming in October. The tech company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday when asked about its current ties to the NBA.
The new NBA meeting this week may not be enough to convince CCTV to resume broadcasting NBA games once the pandemic has subsided. (The current NBA season was originally scheduled to end in June, but suspended in March because of the virus. We don’t know when or if the season will resume.)
“CCTV Sports Channel has had no contact or interaction with the NBA. Regarding China’s sovereignty issues, the position of CCTV Sports Channel is solemn, clear and consistent, and there will be no room for ambiguity or flexibility, “wrote the network. in a scathing article on Weibo, China’s Twitter platform.

Calls for Morey’s “punishment” were also picked up in the Chinese state media.

“Appellation [a] Native Chinese as NBA boss in China is not enough, ” the Chinese daily newspaper Global Times wrote in a article Tuesday. “Prominent commentators and fans have noted that if he is to regain the Chinese market, he must properly handle Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.”

The NBA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pedestrians walk past the NBA flagship store in Beijing last October.

Rebuilding the relationship with Beijing will be the top priority for the new NBA CEO in China, noted Weisheng Chiu, assistant professor of sports management at the Open University in Hong Kong.

“This is Michael Ma’s first task, and I also think it will be the most difficult task for him,” he said.

But Ma also has an advantage because of her personal background, according to Chiu.

According to the Chinese state media, Ma is the son of Ma Guoli, who co-founded the CCTV sports channel and helped “introduce live NBA games to CCTV in the 1990s”. His father is also a renowned basketball executive and advisor to former NBA Rockets star and legend Yao Ming, who now heads the Chinese Basketball Association.
Senior Ma has now resigned as Yao advisor, citing “personal reasons,” according to the official news agency. Xinhua reported Tuesday.

“It is a very smart decision for the NBA league” to hire Michael Ma, said Chiu. “He is probably the best candidate for the job … I think it will help the league to rebuild the relationship and expand the market in the future.”


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