Commissioner Adam Silver told TMZ Sports that’s he’s bothered so many people think the NBA knuckled under and apologized to China over Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting Hong Kong’s freedom.

TMZ Sports notes that Silver has been in contact with former Commissioner David Stern, who is still an adviser to the league. Not coincidentally, Stern, who is currently an executive-in-residence at the University of Massachusetts, gave a speech last night saying almost the same thing:

“Everyone got it wrong,” Stern said Wednesday…

“The NBA has gotten a very difficult rap the last few days, because it is being reported that it actually apologized to the Chinese for the tweet by Daryl Morey of Houston,” he said. “And in fact it never did. Adam Silver said that he regretted that our Chinese fans were upset by that, but that’s the way it is in America. You educate yourself and you go ahead and tweet. And we have free speech here.”…

The 77-year-old Stern, who served as commissioner for three decades until 2014, said he was ultimately “very proud of the way the NBA has handled itself” in the midst of such a high-profile international dispute.

It’s true that the initial statement didn’t contain the word “apologize,” but the point of the statement was to express regret that “friends and fans in China” were “deeply offended” over Morey’s support for Hong Kong’s independence. That certainly makes it sound as if they are sorry about it.

But the new version of reality being offered by Silver and Stern also fails to mention a couple of other things, starting with the fact that the NBA published two different versions of the statement, one in English and one in Mandarin for Chinese fans. As the Associated Press pointed out, the two statements were very different in tone:

A politically charged disagreement over Morey’s tweet that showed support for Hong Kong anti-government protesters got an additional wrinkle when the NBA posted a statement Monday on Weibo — a Twitter-like microblogging site used in China — saying the league was “extremely disappointed” by what it called an “inappropriate” comment. The same post said the NBA’s stance was that Morey’s view “severely hurt the feelings of Chinese fans.”…

“There should be no discrepancy on the statement issued last night,” Bass said Monday. “We have seen various interpretations of the translation of the Mandarin version, but our statement in English is the league’s official statement.”

Silver claims the NBA didn’t apologize to the Chinese government but the Manadarin statement actually echoed the Chinese government:

The “hurt feelings” phrase is commonly used by Chinese authorities to describe perceived gaffes by foreign parties. Similar phrasing was used by Mercedes-Benz in February 2018 when it had to apologize for quoting the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in a social media post. The auto company apologized for “wrong information” that “hurt the feelings of Chinese people.”

Silver and Stern also fail to mention the apology to China by James Harden: “We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there.” You can watch the clip below but it kinda-sorta sounds as if Harden is apologizing not just on his own behalf but for the league as a whole. Maybe Commissioner Silver rebuked him for that. If so, I missed it.

All of this together sounds a lot like an apology to me. Was it an apology to the Chinese government or just to fans? Are we supposed to pretend the NBA doesn’t know China is a one-party communist dictatorship where every decision about the NBA’s existence in China is up to the government and not the free market? I guess that’s what Silver wants us to pretend but let’s instead assume Silver actually knows who he has to appeased in China. It’s definitely not the fans.

The moving of the goalposts by Commissioner Silver and former Commissioner Stern means the NBA has finally stopped worrying so much about what China thinks and started worrying more about what Americans (and Canadians) think. They still have a problem here at home where LeBron James-style woke hypocrisy hasn’t gone over well with everyone. Yahoo News reports that Raptors fans are planning a t-shirt giveaway for the team’s season opener next Tuesday:

A group of Canadian fans in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement have raised more than $34,000 to make and distribute as many as 7,000 T shirts to Raptors fans taking in the team’s season opener Tuesday Oct. 2 vs. the New Orleans Pelicans. The group had set up a GoFundMe page earlier in the week in the hopes of procuring enough money to make 5,000 shirts.

Here’s what the shirts will look like:

Wouldn’t it be a shame if shirts like this appeared at games around the US? I sure hope that doesn’t happen.

Update: It’s happening in LA too:

More here.