- On Friday, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey published a tweet supporting protests in Hong Kong.
- Morey was criticized by Chinese citizens, and several Chinese companies suspended operations with the Rockets and the NBA, which has devoted significant resources to growing basketball in China.
- While Morey apologized, the NBA released a statement acknowledging that Morey’s tweet may have offended Chinese citizens.
- The NBA has since been criticized in the political sphere and sports world for appearing to appease the Chinese government while caring more about the league’s bottom line.
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The NBA finds itself in the midst of an international controversy that began with a tweet.
On Friday, in a since-deleted tweet, Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted an image that read “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” The tweeted featured the symbol of Stand With Hong Kong, an activist group that has been behind calls for foreign government intervention in Hong Kong amid escalating protests.
Morey’s tweet drew criticism from Chinese social media users.
In response, the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), whose president is former Rockets center Yao Ming, announced it was suspending its relationship with the team. Several Chinese companies, including the state broadcaster China Central Television and the livestreaming platform Tencent Sports, announced they would not broadcast Rockets games.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the CBA canceled a planned G League game between the Rockets’ affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and the Texas Legends.
The response from China hits the league hard. According to Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix, the NBA signed a five-year deal with Tencent in June worth at least $500 million. China has been one of the league’s growing markets, with nearly 500 million viewers watching NBA games on Tencent last season. The NBA has invested time and money into growing the Chinese fan base. The Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, and Brooklyn Nets are all set to play preseason games in China over the next week.
Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta responded in a tweet saying Morey’s views don’t