An NBA executive is facing major backlash in China after tweeting support for the Hong Kong protests

Pat Sullivan/AP
  • Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, sparked backlash in China after tweeting support for the protests in Hong Kong.
  • Morey deleted the tweet, which called on people to “stand with Hong Kong.” Anti-government protests have been ongoing for months.
  • Sponsors and partners in China began pulling support for the Rockets in response to Morey’s tweet.
  • The owner of the Rockets, Tilman Fertitta, distanced the team and the NBA from Morey’s opinions. The NBA issued a statement calling his tweet “regrettable.”
  • Morey on Sunday responded to the criticism and said he did not mean for his tweet to “cause any offence.”
  • As described by The New York Times, basketball is China’s most popular sport, with a market representing hundreds of millions of fans.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, is facing backlash in China after tweeting support for the protests in Hong Kong.

What began as protests against legislation that would have allowed for the extradition of Hong Kong residents to mainland China for trial have since ballooned into a fight against Chinese encroachment on the semiautonomous territory.

In the since-deleted tweet, Morey posted the symbol of Stand With Hong Kong, an activist group that has been behind calls for foreign government intervention in Hong Kong.

The tweet prompted backlash from Chinese social-media users, who targeted his account with angry messages and calls for his firing. The Hong Kong protests are deeply unpopular in mainland China. According to The Washington Post, some users began responding to his tweet with “NMSL,” an abbreviation used on Chinese social media to mean “your mother is dead.”

The Chinese Basketball Association, which represents China in the International Basketball Federation, announced on Sunday that it was halting cooperation with the Rockets in response to the tweet. The CBA’s president is Yao Ming, the former NBA All-Star who played for the Rockets from 2002 to 2011.

Several of the team’s sponsors and partners in China, including the state broadcaster China Central Television and the livestreaming platform Tencent Sports, announced on Sunday that they would no longer broadcast Rockets games. Tencent Holdings represents the NBA’s largest digital partner outside the US and struck a deal to stream games and other league programming in China reported to be worth $US1.5 billion.

Tilman Fertitta, the owner of the Rockets, addressed the controversy on Friday night and distanced the team and its shareholders from Morey’s statement.

“Listen…[email protected] does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets,” he wrote. He later defended Morey on ESPN, saying that he had “best general manager in the league” but that Rockets had “no political position.”

On Sunday, the Chinese Consulate in Houston said in a statement that it was “deeply shocked” by what it described as Morey’s “erroneous comments on Hong Kong.”

“We have lodged representations and expressed strong dissatisfaction with the Houston Rockets, and urged the latter to correct the error and take immediate concrete measures to eliminate the adverse impact,” the statement said.


Read more:
Hong Kong protesters say they’re prepared to fight for democracy ‘until we win or we die’

On Sunday evening, the NBA issued a response to the controversy, saying Morey’s views had “deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China” and calling the tweet “regrettable.”

Morey on Sunday responded to the firestorm, saying his views did not necessarily reflect those of the NBA or the Rockets.

“I did not intend my tweet to cause any offence to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China,” he wrote. “I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event.”

As described by The New York Times, basketball is China’s most popular sport, with a market representing hundreds of millions of fans. According to CNBC, more than 640 million people in China watched the 2017-2018 NBA season.

Hong Kong has proved to be a sensitive topic for Chinese consumers, particularly in the months since protests began rocking the city. In August, the luxury fashion labels Versace and Coach attracted fury in China over designs that referenced Hong Kong as separate from China.

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