The U.S. men’s basketball team suffered a humiliating loss in its first game of the Olympics against France on Sunday. But fortunately for Team USA, many Americans didn’t see it.

Despite star power that includes the NBA’s Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard, NBC decided to stream Team USA’s first three games in Tokyo on the premium version of Peacock, its online streaming service, which costs $4.99 a month. The move wasn’t surprising — it was announced last month by Peacock chairman Matt Strauss — but it still didn’t sit well with many fans and sports writers, judging by the reaction on social media and in my inbox.

New York Post columnist Mike Vaccaro was among those angered, writing that it was “stunning” for NBC to not air the early men’s basketball games for free on broadcast television.

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“This isn’t team handball, after all (all due respect to team handball),” Vaccaro wrote.

Of course, NBC paid about $1.3 billion for broadcast rights to the Olympics, so it’s not surprising the network is trying to drive new subscribers to its own streaming platform. But outside of men’s basketball, the only other sports NBC is streaming live on Peacock (on its free-of-charge tier) are early-morning gymnastics and track and field.

There are some workarounds to watch men’s basketball. Peacock’s paid tier is free to Comcast subscribers with X1 cable boxes. You can also stream all the games live on NBCOlympics.com, though you’ll have to log in with your pay-TV provider — whether cable, satellite, or streaming platforms including YouTube TV, FuboTV, and Sling TV.

The first- and second-placed teams of each group (and the two best third-placed teams) advance to the quarterfinals. If Team USA wins its final two group games, they will play in the quarterfinals. If they lose another game, the United States could fall out of the top eight of the 12-team tournament.

Here’s the U.S. men’s basketball schedule for the Toyko Olympics:

Date
Game
Time (ET)
Channel
July 25
France 83, U.S. 76
8 a.m.
Peacock
July 28
U.S. vs. Iran
12:40 a.m.
Peacock
July 31
U.S. vs. Czech Republic
8 a.m.
Peacock
Aug. 3
Men’s quarterfinals
TBD
TBD
Aug. 5
Men’s semifinals
TBD
TBD
Aug. 6
Men’s gold medal game
10:30 p.m.
NBC
Aug. 7
Men’s bronze medal game
7 a.m.
TBD

China criticizes NBC over map during opening ceremony

China is angry at NBC for a map displayed during the opening ceremony they claim “hurt the dignity and emotions of the Chinese people.”

During the opening ceremony, NBC showed a map of China during the parade of nations that didn’t include Taiwan or the South China Sea.

“We urge NBC to recognize the serious nature of this problem and take measures to correct the error,” the Chinese consulate in New York said in a post on its official Weibo social media platform over the weekend.

NBC did not respond publicly to China’s comment.

This is far from the first time China has taken issue with map makers. Last year, Johns Hopkins University changed Taiwan to “Taipei and environs” on its widely viewed map showing the spread of COVID-19. In 2019, Gap Inc. apologized for selling a T-shirt that omitted Taiwan and the South China Sea from a map of China.

Taiwan has been competing under the “Chinese Taipei” name since 1984 to avoid upsetting China, which considers it a territory. Taiwan, which officially goes by the Republic of China, has acted as an independent government since the Chinese Civil War in 1949.

The South China Sea is a disputed territory that China claims they own. The Biden administration supports a 2016 tribunal ruling that China has no claim on the body of water.

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Quick hits

  • Australian swimmer Ariarne Titmus’ stunning victory in the women’s 400 meter freestyle on Sunday drew headlines, though it took the second-fastest time ever recorded to defeat Team USA’s Katie Ledecky. But it was Titmus’ coach, Dean Boxall, who went viral on social media for his exuberant celebration following the race.

  • South Korea broadcaster MBC apologized for using “inappropriate images and captions” during the introduction of some countries during the opening ceremony. Examples include showing a picture of Dracula to represent Romania, an image of pizza to represent Italy, and images of the Chernobyl disaster for Ukraine.

  • TV ratings were low for the first night of competition at the Olympics Saturday, averaging 15.3 million viewers across NBC, USA, NBCSN, and CNBC, according to the network (that includes 648,000 viewers per minute who streamed coverage, a new Olympics prime-time record). According to Sports Media Watch, the ratings fell well short of the comparable night in Rio five years ago, when NBC combined to average 23.5 million viewers. It’s also well short of the 24.2 million viewers NBC drew to the first night of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games.

  • With all the trade talk involving the Sixers and Ben Simmons, maybe the team should looking into signing the Japanese robot that made every shot it attempted on Sunday.