Starting next month, Ma will assume the tricky position of trying to fix the relationship with the Chinese government after the league faced a backlash in the country last year. Chinese state-run television network CCTV still has not aired any NBA games in the country because of that dispute.
The NBA’s position became increasingly uncomfortable as that week unfolded. Some fans in China called for Morey to be fired, while US politicians urged the NBA to uphold its moral values.
Calls for Morey to be “punished” were once again echoed in Chinese state media, too.
The NBA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Rebuilding the relationship with Beijing will be the top priority for the NBA’s new China CEO, noted Weisheng Chiu, an assistant professor of sport management at the Open University of Hong Kong.
“That’s the first task for Michael Ma, and I also think this will be the most challenging task for him,” he said.
But Ma also has an advantage because of his personal background, according to Chiu.
“It’s a very smart move for the NBA league” to hire Michael Ma, said Chiu. “He’s probably the best candidate for the position … I think this will help the league to rebuild the relationship and expand the market in the future.”