The China Basketball Association announces its decision to suspend its relationship with the Houston Rockets for the meantime. This decision follows a tweet by Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets’ general manager, who showed support for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
In Morey’s tweet, he shared a logo with the caption, “Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” He quickly deleted the tweet, but the damage was already done. Shortly after, Houston Rockets owner, Tilman Fertitta, tweeted this: “Listen…@dmorey does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets. Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the @NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization.”
For those who aren’t aware of the ongoing strain between China and Hong Kong, here’s a quick breakdown: Hong Kong is a semi-autonomous state under the People’s Republic of China, wherein they are politically and economically free to a certain degree. However, a legislative measure threatened to affect Hong Kong’s legal independence from China despite Carrie Lam’s claims that the controversial bill will protect HK’s human rights.
This ongoing strain between Hong Kong and China has other countries taking sides. One of Hong Kong’s supporters, apparently, was Daryl Morey.
The Chinese government, along with the CBA and other Chinese businesses, were quick to denounce Morey for his “improper remarks regarding Hong Kong,” as posted by the Chinese Basketball Association last Sunday on Weibo, a website akin to Twitter.
The Chinese Consulate in Houston weighs in with a statement saying that it was “deeply shocked” by the general manager’s comments and has encouraged the Houston Rockets to “correct the error and take immediate concrete measures to eliminate the adverse impact.”
The capital is extremely sensitive about other countries’ remarks about the HK protests, which have recently spiraled into violence. China blames foreign countries for playing a hand in encouraging the semi-autonomous state’s demonstrations to oppose the bill.
What can happen from here on out?
Morey’s actions can mean devastating effects for the team and the NBA as a whole. In China, the Houston Rockets are the most popular NBA team. The fact that legendary Yao Ming played for the Rockets contributed to this widespread popularity. But now a chair of the CBA, Yao Ming also expressed his dissatisfaction with the general manager’s actions.
Due to his political expression, Morey now faces the very real possibility of being replaced as the general manager of the Houston Rockets. As for the Rockets’ Chinese sponsors, Li-Ning and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, they are also suspending their cooperation with the team.