GM Daryl Morey pushes Rockets into an worldwide incident
Oct 08 2019
The general manager of the Houston Rocketsbasketball team apologised for a tweet in support of the Hong Kong protest movement amid growing backlash and anger in China, where business partners halted work with the NBA team. "I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event".
A former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 under the framework of "one country, two systems", which promises the territory certain democratic freedoms not afforded to the mainland. China accuses foreign parties in the United States and elsewhere of encouraging the demonstrations. In the immediate aftermath of the tweet, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta attempted to assuage the tension by distancing the organization from Morey's tweet. Chinese sportswear maker Li Ning Co. and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Credit Card Center suspended cooperation with the Rockets, while CCTV and Tencent said they will halt broadcasting the team's games. He added that Chinese fans "show us most support, so we appreciate them". But they seem to have no problem with China, one of the most oppressive nations in the world with one of the worst human rights records of any modern nation.
Basketball fans in China also criticized the Rockets on Weibo.
Star player James Harden said after a practice on Monday the controversy had not affected the players.
In another tweet, Morey said: "I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided".
Amazon.com faced a backlash in August after Chinese social media users found T-shirts on its website with slogans supporting the protests.
"I don't know Daryl personally", Tsai wrote of Morey.
The statement, which included the phrase "hurt feelings of Chinese fans" in the Chinese translation - "hurt feelings" is a phrase used often in propaganda by Beijing's Foreign Ministry, according to the Hollywood Reporter - didn't go over well with several Democrats and Republicans, who accused the National Basketball Association of putting its business interests ahead of human rights.
The Rockets have enjoyed a huge following in China since the club drafted Chinese star Yao Ming in 2002.
And, massive Chinese e-commerce site Taobao has pulled all Rockets merchandise.
The furor is the latest example of an overseas brand caught in controversy over the Hong Kong protests. Roughly 300 million people in the country - almost one-fifth of its population - now play the sport, according to the Chinese Basketball Association. It has unraveled, however, into an worldwide incident that has caused outrage on two continents and left the NBA-ever-conscious of its image as an agent for social justice-groveling for forgiveness from angry Chinese fans and officials.
His 2018 opponent for the Senate seat, presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke, also added his criticism of the league, as did fellow candidate and Texas congressman Julian Castro.
But the English statement, while still acknowledging that Morey's since-deleted tweet may have rubbed Chinese fans the wrong way, used more subdued language. "I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives", he posted.
Brock Silvers, managing directorat investment firmKaiyuan Capital, said the league's response was quick and predictable, given how politicized Hong Kong has become.