The Chinese Basketball Association has decided to suspend all business dealings with the Houston Rockets, after a team executive tweeted a message of support for the protesters in Hong Kong.
In a since deleted tweet, Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey posted a message of support for those protesting in favor of democracy in Hong Kong.
Morey’s tweet read: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”
The Chinese Basketball Association, an organization led by former Houston Rocket Yao Ming, expressed “strong opposition” to Morey’s “improper remarks regarding Hong Kong.”
The NBA in general and the Rockets in particular, have several highly lucrative business arrangements. The communist country is a fast-growing NBA market and the Rockets, thanks largely to Yao Ming’s career in Houston, are one of the most popular teams in the world’s most populous nation.
The Rockets moved quickly to insist that Morey does not speak for the organization. Rockets Owner Tilman Fertitta tweeted:
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. @espn https://t.co/yNyQFtwTTi
— Tilman Fertitta (@TilmanJFertitta) October 5, 2019
On Sunday, Morey himself issued a statement:
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.
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.
Fertitta told ESPN that, while he felt compelled to clarify that the Rockets are not a political organization, he has no problems with Morey.
“I have the best general manager in the league,” Fertitta said. “Everything is fine with Daryl and me. We got a huge backlash, and I wanted to make clear that the organization has no political position. We’re here to play basketball and not to offend anybody.”
The Hong Kong protests, initially begun to protest an extradition law, have seen the size and scope of their message grow as demonstrators have begun fighting for the preservation of their current freedoms and freedom from repeated intrusions from China.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn