ORLANDO, Fla. — Celtics forward Gordon Hayward said Chinese shoe manufacturer Anta reached out to him this week to stress that the escalating turmoil between the NBA and China to will not affect Hayward’s endorsement deal with the company.
“They were like, ‘Hey, our relationship stays the same,’ ” Hayward told the Globe Friday. “So that’s kind of what I know about it, and they’ve been nothing but good to me.”
Reuters reported this week that Anta said it is halting its contract renewal negotiations with the NBA.
Hayward agreed to a four-year shoe and apparel deal with Anta in 2018 and traveled to China with his family last summer for a promotional tour. He said he had not been contacted by the NBA about the situation.
Hayward is among a handful of NBA players with Anta endorsement deals, including Warriors superstar Klay Thompson.
The controversy began last week when Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
The NBA initially put out a statement that was critical of Morey’s tweet, but as backlash in the United States mounted, commissioner Adam Silver defended the free speech rights of Morey and other members of the league.
That response sparked outrage in China, with many league sponsorship partners there quickly severing ties and Chinese broadcasters threatening not to show NBA games this season.
“I haven’t followed everything about it,” Hayward said. “I kind of have an understanding of what’s going on. I think it’s a complicated issue.
“I know my relationship with them, with Anta, hasn’t changed. I have a great relationship with them. They’ve been really good to me, and after going to China, I had a great time and the people there were super nice to me and my family. So that’s kind of all I know about the situation.”
While there was some concern that the preseason game Friday between the Nets and Lakers in Shanghai would be postponed, it went on as scheduled, although the teams did not take part in media interviews before or after the game.
Hayward said he would continue to keep tabs on the situation in China, but that his primary focus is elsewhere.
“It’s not something I’m honestly too worried about,” he said. “I’m trying to get ready for the season.”
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Celtics point guard Kemba Walker missed Friday’s game against the Magic because of a sore knee, but he and coach Brad Stevens reiterated that it’s not serious, and Walker should be able to return to the court Saturday.
“Just a little bit sore,” Walker said. “That’s it. I’m good. Just precautionary. Nothing serious at all.”
Marcus Smart replaced Walker in the starting lineup.