NBA commissioner Adam Silver said China's retaliation to former Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey supporting anti-government Hong Kong demonstrators in 2019 cost the league hundreds of millions of dollars.

Morey, 76ers GM, tweeted in October 2019: "Liberate. Help Hong Kong." Morey deleted the tweet and said he didn't mean to upset Rockets fans or his Chinese pals. Demonstrators protested China's dominance of Hong Kong.

After Morey's statements, China removed NBA games from CCTV, but they returned in March. Silver said the NBA lost "hundreds of millions" in dollars due of the 18-month embargo, but he also emphasised free expression for players, coaches, and executives.

"Others have since spoken out against China and other places in the world, and if we're taken off the air or lose money, we accept it," Silver told reporters Thursday, per Reuters.

NBA claimed Morey's words were "regrettable" and "offended many of our friends and supporters in China." Later, the league issued another statement supporting free expression.

Silver also pushed back Thursday on U.S. politicians' complaints of the NBA's economic connection with China, saying the league is simply one of many that does so.

"Every Fortune 100 company does business in China," Silver added. "Our commerce with China is significant. All the phones, clothes, and shoes in this room are made in China. From a sociological perspective, we need U.S. government guidance."

"And if people are advocating we no longer have trade relations with China, which I don't think they are, that's a massive global problem where we'll follow our government's lead," he added.

NBA rookie ENES KANTAR Freedom has been a vocal critic of China's human rights atrocities and has criticised LeBron James and other athletes for doing business in China.