During a Thursday post-game news conference, CNN reporter Christina Macfarlane tried to ask Houston Rockets stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook about speaking out on political and social issues in the wake of the most recent China scandal.
The league has been dealing with an ongoing scandal since league officials, owners, and players fell over themselves apologizing to the Communist government of China after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
The NBA has long been known for allowing and encouraging its players to speak out publicly on important societal topics, but they have been noticeably silent on the abuse of Hong Kong citizens at the hands of the Chinese government.
With those events as context, Macfarlane asked Harden and Westbrook, “The NBA has always been a league that prides itself on its players and its coaches being able to speak out openly about political and societal affairs. I just wonder, after the events of this week and the fallout we’ve seen, whether you would both feel differently about speaking out in that way in the future?”
Before either player could answer, a Rockets media handler jumped in and said, “Excuse me. We’re taking basketball questions only.”
Macfarlane responded, “It’s a legitimate question. This is an event that’s happened this week during the NBA—”
The off-screen handler interrupted, saying, “I understand, but the question has been answered.”
What did the NBA say?
After the story blew up online, the NBA was forced to issue an apology. The league said in a statement:
During today’s Houston Rockets media availability, a team representative inappropriately interjected to prevent CNN’s Christina Macfarlane from receiving an answer to her question. We’ve apologized to Ms. Macfarlane as this was inconsistent with how the NBA conducts media events.