Russell Westbrook and James Harden each dropped 22 points in the Rockets’ preseason victory over the Raptors in Saitama, Japan. In the postgame presser, CNN’s Christina Macfarlane asked a question of the two players:
The NBA has always been a league that prides itself on its players and its coaches being able to speak out openly about political and societal affairs. I just wonder after the events of this week and the fallout we’ve seen, whether you would both feel differently about speaking out in that way in the future.
A flack off-screen can be heard urging “basketball questions only” and telling Macfarlane that “it’s been answered.” Macfarlane insists that her question is a new wrinkle on the topic of the week, but is met with silence. The conference moves on and Westbrook fields a question about his relationship to Japan.
To reiterate: This game didn’t even take place in China.
Both the NBA and the Houston Rockets specifically have some potential financial incentive to quash this question. Only the league, however, is run by a commissioner who said earlier this week that the NBA “will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way.” It’s since been reported that the directive came from a Rockets employee, who the NBA said in a statement acted “inappropriately”:
During today’s Houston R