As we first spotted on TRUEHOOP, the NBA playoffs have disappeared from Chinese television sets following the devastating earthquake in Sichuan province in China on May 12th. Once normal programming returned to the Chinese state sports station, the NBA reappeared for only one game before being replaced. The explanation from the head of the station?
“These games are not in accordance with the atmosphere of the nation after the devastation of the earthquake. They are too entertaining” Jiang Heping, director of the state TV sports channel, told Reuters.
“We did show one game but then we were informed not to continue.”
Henry Abbott’s TRUEHOOP readers go on to refute that, claiming other sports programming replaced the NBA tilts. Their explanation? The Chinese government holds a grudge about a letter signed by many NBA players last season (but not swoosher LeBron James) at the request of Lakers guard Ira Newble to protest Chinese support of the Sudanese government through weapons sales and trade agreements (a.k.a. oil).
We suppose this is one of those subtle messages from the opaque Chinese Communist Party, but we aren’t entirely convinced. Those same NBA players will be present in their country in a few months and none of the planned attendees had shown any interest in making a scene about Darfur while there.
However, fiddling with NBA China (partially owned by Disney) has a ripple effect on the shoe companies invested in China. NBA China’s small right now, but Nike and adidas aren’t. No Finals games would mean lower exposure for their stars on the largest stage.
If Kobe’s not given one last chance to shine before his arrival, will he lose possible converts to his shoe? (Or maybe the Chinese government hates snakes as much as Indy?)
And if the savvy and worldly Bryant decides losing a few million more potential human shirt racks for his jerseys due to the Chinese populace missing his NBA Finals crowning achievement is a shot across his bow and chooses to speak up about Darfur while standing in Beijing? Then how’s that going to play?
There may be a nefarious explanation; opacity allows us to fill in those blanks any way we see fit. However, we’re willing to consider other possible reasons for this blackout since this one seems unlikely for business reasons.