General manager Daryl Morey of the Houston Rockets found himself in hot water after he tweeted support for the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.
Chinese social media users were quick to notice Morey’s tweet – an image that read: Fight for Freedom. Offended by his tweet, they bombarded Morey with hate tweets and called for the firing of the NBA executive. Some users even responded to his tweet with “NMSL,” an acronym used on Chinese social media to mean “your mother is dead.”
Backlash from CBA and Chinese Companies
Morey’s tweet also prompted the Chinese Basketball Association to suspend its cooperation with the Houston Rockets. The Rockets have a huge Chinese following largely because of Yao Ming who played with the team from 2002 to 2011. He also serves as the current president of CBA.
Other criticisms came from Chinese broadcasting companies. China Central Television and Tencent Sports both said they would no longer show Rockets games. Tencent Holdings is a major media partner of the NBA with a streaming deal that is worth $1.5 billion.
In a tweet, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta addressed the issue. He said Morey’s statement does not reflect the views of the team or its shareholders. In an interview with ESPN, Fertitta later defended Daryl Morey, stating that he had “best general manager in the league” and clarified that Rockets have “no political position.”
Even the Chinese consulate in Houston gave their take on the controversy. “We have lodged representations and expressed strong dissatisfaction with the Houston Rockets, and urged the latter to correct the error and take immediate concrete measures to eliminate the adverse impact,” it said in a statement.
The NBA also issued a response, stating that Morey’s comments have deeply offended many of the organization’s Chinese friends and fans.
Morey already deleted the tweet. He also apologized on Sunday and clarified that his comments didn’t reflect those of the NBA or the Rockets.
“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,” he wrote.