Houston Rockets, NBA Face Backlash In China After GM Tweets About Hong Kong Protests

A now-deleted tweet sent Sunday by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey that voiced support for Hong Kong protesters has highlighted the delicate nature of the NBA's business ties to mainland China. 

Morey’s deleted tweet featured an image with the words: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”

The Fallout 

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said Morey’s opinion does not reflect the views of the organization.

The NBA said in a statement that the league recognized his statement was deeply offensive to fans in China.

The Chinese-language version of the NBA’s statement was much harsher on Morey, calling the tweet inappropriate and offensive, according to The New York Post.

The differences in the translated version forced NBA spokesman Mike Bass on Monday to issue a statement on the statement.

“There should be no discrepancy on the statement issued last night,” he said. “We have seen various interpretations of the translation of the Mandarin version, but our statement in English is the league’s official statement.”

The Rockets are the second-most popular team in China after drafting Hall of Famer Yao Ming, who was born in Shanghai, to its team in 2002. 

The Chinese Basketball Association said it will suspend all cooperation with the Rockets. Ming is the president of the CBA.

Tencent Holding/ADR TCHEY Sports  said it will suspend live streaming for Houston Rockets games, as well as news about the team.

Tencent is the NBA’s exclusive digital partner in China, with nearly 500 million viewers last season.

Chinese footwear brand Li-Ning Company and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank also said they would suspend cooperation with the Rockets, according to CNN.

Although the league and team stand to lose a lot if by alienating their Chinese fan base, the NBA prides itself on being the most progressive league, and the situation is a test of those values. 

Public Responses

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang

“The Chinese government banning the Rockets is a terrible move.”

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas

“We’re better than this; human rights shouldn’t be for sale & the NBA shouldn’t be assisting Chinese communist censorship.”

Houston Rockets guard James Harden

"We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there," Harden told ESPN. "For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love.”

NPD Group's Matt Powell 

“Guess we’ll see how woke the NBA really is …”

Stocktwits founder Howard Lindzon

“China is upset about a tweet from an NBA GM, even though Twitter is banned in China.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey 

“And the #NBA, which (correctly) has no problem with players/employees criticizing our gov’t, is now apologizing for criticizing the Chinese gov’t. This is shameful and cannot stand.”

Related Links:

Footwear Expert: Tariffs Hurt Nike In A Different Manner Than You Think

Basketball Court: Nike Sues Skechers

Photo by Studio Incendo via Wikimedia

Posted In: Andrew YangCBADaryl MoreyHouston RocketsHoward LindzonJames HardenLi-NingMatt PowellMike BassNBANPD GroupShanghai Pudong Development BankTed CruzTilman FertittaTom MalinowskiYao MingNewsSportsGlobalMediaGeneral

Ad Disclosure: The rate information is obtained by Bankrate from the listed institutions. Bankrate cannot guaranty the accuracy or availability of any rates shown above. Institutions may have different rates on their own websites than those posted on Bankrate.com. The listings that appear on this page are from companies from which this website receives compensation, which may impact how, where, and in what order products appear. This table does not include all companies or all available products.

All rates are subject to change without notice and may vary depending on location. These quotes are from banks, thrifts, and credit unions, some of whom have paid for a link to their own Web site where you can find additional information. Those with a paid link are our Advertisers. Those without a paid link are listings we obtain to improve the consumer shopping experience and are not Advertisers. To receive the Bankrate.com rate from an Advertiser, please identify yourself as a Bankrate customer. Bank and thrift deposits are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Credit union deposits are insured by the National Credit Union Administration.

Consumer Satisfaction: Bankrate attempts to verify the accuracy and availability of its Advertisers' terms through its quality assurance process and requires Advertisers to agree to our Terms and Conditions and to adhere to our Quality Control Program. If you believe that you have received an inaccurate quote or are otherwise not satisfied with the services provided to you by the institution you choose, please click here.

Rate collection and criteria: Click here for more information on rate collection and criteria.