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Adam Silver Commits to Free Speech as Chinese Companies Cut Ties With N.B.A.

The N.B.A.’s decades-long push to develop China into its biggest overseas market appeared increasingly in jeopardy on Tuesday as the league’s commissioner stood firm in the face of criticism from Beijing and the Chinese threatened financial repercussions.

The threats began when China’s state-run television announced it would not broadcast two N.B.A. preseason games this week in Shanghai and Shenzhen that would feature basketball’s biggest star, LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers. Hours later, the league’s commissioner, Adam Silver, issued an emphatic defense of its employees’ right to speak out on political issues.

That followed days of intense criticism accusing Silver of trying to appease one of the world’s most autocratic governments after a Houston Rockets executive tweeted support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.