Rockets’ manager’s Hong Kong comments anger China
BEIJING (AP) — Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tried Sunday to defuse the rapidly growing fallout over his deleted tweet that showed support for Hong Kong anti-government protesters, saying he did not intend to offend any of the team’s Chinese fans or sponsors.
A short time after Morey posted that statement, the NBA said it was “regrettable” that the deleted tweet offended many in China. And all that followed several companies in China, including some of the NBA’s major business partners there, lashing out over Morey’s original tweet.
Morey tweeted an image that read “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” referring to the fourmonth-old protests in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. That led to Houston owner Tilman Fertitta turning to Twitter to say that Morey does not speak for the Rockets, and sparking an outcry that included the Chinese Basketball Association — whose president is Yao Ming, the former Rockets star center — saying it was suspending its relationship with the team.
Other criticism came from Tencent, a major media partner of the NBA in China with a streaming deal that is worth $1.5 billion over the next five years, and Chinese state television — both of which said they would not be showing Rockets games.
It wasn’t immediately clear if Morey’s new tweets or the NBA’s statement that followed would be enough to salvage those relationships. Chinese athletic apparel maker Li-Ning released a statement saying it was upset with Morey’s tweet.
“I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China,” Morey tweeted early Monday from Japan, where Houston is playing this week. “I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.
“I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention. My tweets are my own and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA.”
NBA Chief Communications Officer Mike Bass said the league recognizes that Morey’s tweet “deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable.” Bass added that the league supports individuals “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,” Bass said.
Earlier, Fertitta attempted to distance the team from Morey’s tweet with a Twitter post of his own: “Listen.(at)darylmorey does NOT speak for the (at)HoustonRockets. Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the (at)NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization.”
The statements from Morey and the NBA caught the eyes of lawmakers, including no fewer than three U.S. Senators — Ted Cruz of Texas, Rick Scott of Florida (who criticized NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for the league’s statement, apparently unaware it was made by Bass, an NBA spokesman), and Brian Schatz of Hawaii.
Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey