Hours after publicly apologizing to China in two different languages for Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says he supports Morey’s free speech rights.
However, first, Silver spoke about the damage Morey’s tweet has done to the NBA’s business dealings with communist China.
“There is no doubt, the economic impact is already clear,” Silver told Kyodo News in Japan. “There have already been fairly dramatic consequences from that tweet, and I have read some of the media suggesting that we are not supporting Daryl Morey, but in fact we have.
“I think as a values-based organization that I want to make it clear … that Daryl Morey is supported in terms of his ability to exercise his freedom of expression.”
The controversy started on Friday, when Morey tweeted a message of support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.
Morey wrote: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”
That short and relatively simple message caused a tremendous backlash in China, leading the Chinese Basketball Association to sever all business ties with the Houston Rockets. The NBA quickly issued a statement, trying to make amends for Morey’s post:
We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable. While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them. We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.
While the NBA says it’s a “values-based” organization, it’s fair to question what “values” the Association is truly based on.
As Breitbart’s Warner Todd Huston wrote of the NBA on Monday, “This is the same league that canceled games in North Carolina because the Tar Heel State had a ‘human rights abusing’ transgender bathroom law. But they seem to have no problem with China, one of the most oppressive nations in the world with one of the worst human rights records of any modern nation.”
Despite his criticism of Morey’s tweet, Silver sees his league as a place where people are free to speak their minds:
Members of the NBA community remain free to express their opinions and the league backs their right to do so. There are the values that have been part of this league from its earliest days, and that includes free expression.
I accept that it is also Chinese governments’ and Chinese businesses’ right to react to those words and, at least from my longtime experience in the NBA, it will take some time to heal some of these issues.
We are a platform in which people can engage and I would like to believe that for each side who believes they have a point of view here, that this engagement is positive.
It would be interesting to find out if Daryl Morey believes this “engagement” was positive.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn