Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey kicked off a firestorm over the weekend after he tweeted out support for the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, writing, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”
The tweet was quickly deleted, but not before China took note. On Sunday, the Rockets’ Chinese sponsors, sportswear brand Li-Ning and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank (SPD Bank) Credit Card Center, announced that they were suspending their support of the team. China’s basketball association also said it will stop cooperating with the Texas team.
Soon after, the Chinese government got involved. “We are deeply shocked by the erroneous comments on Hong Kong made by Mr. Daryl Morey,” the Chinese consulate in Houston wrote in a statement on Sunday. “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 Rockets are a popular team in China due to their 2002 drafting of Chinese-born Yao Ming, the most famous Chinese basketball player of all time.
Morey issued a statement in response to the backlash Sunday evening. Falling short of apologizing for his original tweet, he wrote that he “did not intend to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China” and said he has had time to “consider other perspectives” since sharing his support for the protesters on Saturday.
On Sunday night, the NBA stepped into the fray, saying in a statement:
“We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable. While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them. We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.”