If you paid attention to ESPN channels yesterday, you saw the network repeatedly attempt to grapple with the story of Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey creating an international incident after tweeting and then deleting his support for pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong. You heard talking head after talking head castigate Morey for sending the tweet, speculation over whether he’d keep his job, speculation about the sincerity of his convictions, discussions about what this meant for the Rockets’ bottom line, the observation that it’s unreasonable to expect for-profit companies like the NBA to act morally, and the non-take that cowing to China is simply the cost of doing business in China.
What you didn’t hear was much discussion about what is actually happening on the ground with protestors in Hong Kong, why they’re protesting, or any other acknowledgment of China’s political situation, past or present.
This could be because Chuck Salituro, the senior news director of ESPN, sent a memo to shows mandating that any discussion of the Daryl Morey story avoid any political discussions about China and Hong Kong, and instead focus on the related basketball issues. The memo, obtained by Deadspin, explicitly discouraged any political discussion about China and Hong Kong. Multiple ESPN sources confirmed to Deadspin that network higher-ups were keeping a close eye on how the topic was discussed on ESPN’s airwaves.