NBA apologizes after Rockets employee nixes reporter’s China question

Houston's Russell Westbrook, right, and James Harden speak with reporters Thursday after a preseason game against the Toronto Raptors in Tokyo.
(Toshifumi Kitamura / AFP via Getty Images)

The NBA said Thursday that it has apologized to a reporter after a Houston Rockets employee would not allow James Harden and Russell Westbrook to answer a question related to the current controversy between the league and China.

Last week, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted an image that expressed support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. The since-deleted tweet, and the NBA’s refusal to apologize for it, enraged the Chinese government.

Days later in Tokyo, Harden and Westbrook took questions from reporters following the Rockets’ 118-111 preseason win over the Toronto Raptors. CNN reporter Christina Macfarlane asked the two players if they “feel differently about speaking out” after the events of the past week.


Before the players had a chance to answer, a media relations staff member chimed in, “Excuse me, we’re taking basketball questions only.”

Macfarlane responded, “It’s a legitimate question,” but it ultimately went unanswered.

Later in the day, the NBA released this statement:

“During today’s Houston Rockets media availability, a team representative inappropriately interjected to prevent CNN’s Christina Macfarlane from receiving an answer to her question. We’ve apologized to Ms. Macfarlane as this was inconsistent with how the NBA conducts media events.”