The issue between the NBA and China explained
Daryl Morey, coach for the NBA’s Houston Rockets, is in some very hot water with China at the moment all over a single tweet. So what exactly happened?
In a since deleted tweet, Morey, who has previously had very good relations with China, dared to tweet out: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” In the eyes of China, this tweet is far from innocuous, coming at a time of rampant protests in Hong Kong in part against China’s government, Daryl has since been accused of deeply disrespecting China.
Moments after the tweet, major Chinese companies pulled out of cooperating with the Houston Rockets, a team that wonover China with the signing of Chinese legend Yao Ming in 2002. The Chinese Basketball Association pulled out of working with the Houston Rockets, as did the Chinese sportswear brand Li-Ning. The club’s sponsor in China, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, and the club’s Chinese streaming providers, CCTV and Tencent Holdings too pulled out. The NBA itself was quick to issue an apology.
Houston Rockets had long since been a fav in China, not just because of Ming on the team, but the team also sported Chinese characters on their jerseys as a way to accommodate the immense viewership in the Asian country.
And immense it certainly is, with around 500 million people watching NBA programming on Tencent platforms last season, another 300 million people in China are reported to play the sport, and a reported figure of US $1.6 was given by the NBA to China to help refurbish courts. In fact, rather surprisingly, the Chinese basketball viewership is the largest in the world.
Morey has since backpedalled on his tweet, explaining his views are but one interpretation of an incredibly complex situation, and even still, his personal views do not speak for the entirety of the NBA or the Houston Rockets.
1/ I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. 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.— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) 7 de outubro de 2019
2/ 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.— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) 7 de outubro de 2019
Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai stood with China and against Morey on the matter, explaining the damage from Morey's tweet "will take a long time to repair". He added that 1.4 billion Chinese citizens "stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China" and the issue "is non-negotiable".
The fragility in China comes as Hong Kong is protesting for improved democratic rights, especially a freedom from Chinese administration. There are currently calls to have Morey fired.