A CNN reporter on Thursday was cut off by a Houston Rockets media officer while asking Houston Rockets stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook about the ongoing free speech furor surrounding China.
During a press conference in Japan, CNN’s Christina Macfarlane asked Harden and Westbrook if China responding in anger to a now-deleted tweet by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong had changed the way they thought about weighing in on social issues.
“The NBA has always been a league that prides itself on its players and coaches being able to speak out openly about political and social 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?” asked Macfarlane.
The Houston Rockets media officer is heard off-camera interjecting that the players are taking “basketball questions only.” A man is then seen reaching to remove the microphone from the reporter’s hands.
“It’s a legitimate question,” Macfarlane replied. “This is an event that has happened this week.”
“I understand that. It’s a question that’s already been answered,” the team’s press staffer shot back, before reiterating that only basketball questions were allowed.
Macfarlane then prompted Harden to respond before passing back the microphone, though both he and Westbrook refused to acknowledge the question.
On Monday, Harden, flanked by Westbrook, weighed in on the matter by offering an apology for Morey’s remarks.
“We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there,” he said. “For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love.”