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Controversial Tweet Leads to Pull Out of Houston Rockets Nike Merch in China

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Sneakers carrying the Houston Rockets logo and other team merchandise were pulled out from major Nike stores in several cities in China in the middle of madness regarding a tweet from the general manager of the team that expresses their support of anti-government protests in Hong Kong.

According to managers from five separate Nike stores in Shanghai and Beijing, they were instructed a few days ago through a memorandum that they must remove all Houston Rockets merchandise from their stores. 

Even though Daryl Morey, Rockets’ general manager, has already issued his apology, the fire burned even brighter when Adam Silver, National Basketball Association Commissioner, released their statement. Silver said that the NBA is backing Morey for saying his tweet, as he has the right to practice his freedom of expression on social media.

Putting the controversy aside, the NBA still decided to push through on their exhibition game in Shanghai last Thursday. Though the promotion and marketing events were canceled, nothing stopped the Brooklyn Nets versus Los Angeles Lakers game.

This issue can be a significant drawback to the NBA, as their business in China is valued at 4 billion dollars. In fact, though the revenue growth of Nike has been slowing all over the world, China is still their top source of increasing revenue.

Aside from Beijing and Shanghai, three Nike stores in Chengdu have removed their Houston Rockets product. On Shenzhen, another three Nike stores have decided to forego all sorts of NBA-related merchandise, not just those of the Rockets.

In spite of this, Nike and Nike China have declined to respond regarding their stand on the matter.

In a conversation with the manager of Nike in Super Brand Mall, Lujiazui, the financial district of China, they mentioned that they also have removed all merchandise that is related to the Rockets. The manager adds, “Other stuff, there hasn’t been any impact, and no one has said we need to withdraw it. If they say that all NBA stuff has to be withdrawn, then our store will go bankrupt.”

On the other hand, two NBA Playzone have also removed Rockets’ products in their Beijing and Shanghai branches. NBA Playzone is a basketball-themed family entertainment center that is owned by Nike China. According to an NBA Playzone employee, “Rockets products were hot before, and when you stepped into the store, it was full of red. Now, it is mostly yellow and blue.” Yellow and blue refers to the Golden State Warriors team colors.

 

NBA Facing An Even Wider Backlash

The effects of the issue have extended to China’s major e-commerce platforms. Both Alibaba and JD.com have removed all Houston Rockets merchandise from their websites and mobile apps.

If you try searching the NBA logo on Alibaba or JD.com, you will find zero results. This merch includes all collaboration sneakers with brands like Nike and Supreme.

Alibaba has released a statement that the comment of Morey brought hurt to the Chinese people. Moreover, they told the local media that their decision to remove the items from their platform are final without chances for negotiation.

Similarly, JD.com has issued a statement that their company is strongly condemning and resenting the said tweet of Morey.

On the other hand, two new e-commerce marketplaces for reselling goods, DoNew and Poizon, have also removed all their shoes relating to the NBA. In fact, trying to use the keyword “NBA” in both platforms will yield no results.

According to a shoe reseller in Guangzhou named Zhu Junwen, “As long as the bosses of Nike and Adidas don’t come out and say something stupid and get banned by China’s central government, I think sneaker resales in China will remain pretty profitable. But if (Nike and Adidas get banned), that would be the end of it.”