Houston Rockets manager backs off Hong Kong tweet after China backlash
SINGAPORE — The Houston Rockets and the NBA found themselves caught in a firestorm of controversy over a tweet about the protests in Hong Kong, extending to the sports world the list of targets vulnerable to China’s political sensitivities.
In a tweet late Friday, General Manager Daryl Morey appeared to support Hong Kong demonstrators, with the message containing an image that read “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” The message was deleted, and Morey later tweeted that he did not mean to cause offense. The National Basketball Association issued its own apology.
But the damage was done, with Chinese sportswear maker Li Ning Co. and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Credit Card Center suspending cooperation with the Rockets, while CCTV Sports said it will halt broadcasting the team’s games.
The episode is the latest incident to highlight the risks for international businesses being caught up in the standoff between pro-democracy demonstrators and Hong Kong authorities. From Starbucks Corp. to Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., brands and companies are being targeted if they’re seen to be supporting either side in the dispute.
It also drags the world of sports into the controversy, setting up emotional reactions in both China and the U.S. The issue is particularly sensitive for the Rockets, who have worked hard to establish a loyal fan base in China.