CCTV customarily shows the first game of the NBA season, which started in North America on Tuesday night, the early hours of Wednesday in China. However, the season opener, between the reigning champion Toronto Raptors and the New Orleans Pelicans was blacked out. The Raptors-Pelicans game was also absent from the NBA’s streaming partner in China, Tencent, although the broadcaster was scheduled to show a later game between LeBron James’s LA Lakers and their cross-city rivals, the Clippers.
The lucrative relationship between the NBA and China has been damaged since the Houston Rockets general manager, Daryl Morey, tweeted in support of anti-government protestors in Hong Kong earlier this month. The incident has threatened the league’s sponsorship and broadcasting deals in China, which are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Yahoo Sports estimates that the dispute with China could depress the league’s salary cap – and therefore NBA wages – by up to 15% next season.