Tencent NBA stream ‘halted over Taiwan flag appearance’

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 18: A shot of the game ball during a game between the Toronto Raptors and the Denver Nuggets on November 18, 2016 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

A stream of an NBA game between Miami Heat and the LA Lakers by Chinese platform Tencent Sports was interrupted on Saturday because a man seated in the front row of the crowd was wearing a shirt with the Taiwan flag on it, according to media reports.

The video stream of the game is reported to have cut back to the Tencent Sports studios, and a message appeared saying that elements in the game did not “correspond to broadcasting standards”. After 40 minutes, Tencent switched to streaming a game between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Brooklyn Nets. Highlights of the Heat-Lakers game available on Tencent’s platform later showed only the left side of the court, omitting coverage of the right side where the man with the offending shirt was seated.

Tencent is the NBA’s exclusive digital partner in China, in the market’s most valuable media-rights deal, running 2020-25.

The incident comes a month after Tencent and other Chinese sports platforms suspended coverage of NBA games after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.

Tencent has since restored live-streaming of NBA games, but Houston Rockets games remain suspended from its lineup, and the team’s name and logo have been taken off its marketing for NBA games.