At the heart of the NBA’s recent controversy in China was the desire to maintain the reputation of social awareness the league has fought hard to cultivate, even if doing so meant risking one of its most profitable relationships.
On a macro level, that corporate partnership very clearly guided the way the league handled this situation, but according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, players had a quite a bit on the line:
Sources told The Athletic that several Lakers and Nets players lost money over broken deals in Shanghai that involved sponsorship appearances. China was fully halting business with the NBA and its players. As The Athletic’s Bill Oram reported from Shenzhen, Kyle Kuzma was set to announce new sponsorship deals while in China, but they were scrapped once the team arrived in Shanghai because of the controversy.
This coincides with what happened to the Rockets. Sources told The Athletic that at least two Houston players had sponsorship negotiations stall out in China after the impact of Morey’s post began to spiral.
Just to avoid a game of telephone, here is what Oram originally wrote:
Kuzma’s plans to announce additional sponsorship deals with Chinese companies were scrapped once the Lakers arrived on Tuesday and found themselves caught in the middle of a stalemate between the NBA and the Chinese government.
When thinking about endorsements athletes might have in China, most would probably think of shoe deals, especially given how many of those are built largely in part on the back of cheap labor China so amply supplies. But athletes have all kinds of endorsement deals lined up that can obviously be affected fairly easily. It’s possible that all of this could have also played a role in players not wanting to speak on the subject before Adam Silver had the opportunity to, although it’s impossible to say for certain.
Still, this is kind of what you risk when you do business with a totalitarian government. For the NBA and, let’s be honest, most major corporations, the immense amounts of money is considered worth the trade-off.
Hell, there’s a good chance you’re reading this right now on an iPhone.
It sucks to hear about players losing out on money due to something that had no control over. If it wasn’t tampering, Daryl Morey probably owe quite a few people quite a few dinners.