The general manager of the Houston Rockets sought to quell an outcry in China on Sunday night after the support he expressed on Twitter for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong upset sponsors, media outlets and basketball officials in a country that invests billions in the NBA.
"I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event", his assertion learn. "Stand with Hong Kong" - referencing to the protests that have raged for months. He shared an image that read "Fight for Freedom".
But while the National Basketball Association seems prepared to side with human rights abusers in China, a bi-partisan group of politicians do not, including pols who usually stand on the opposite side of the issues, such as Ted Cruz and Eric Swalwell.
USA lawmakers said the NBA's response was shameful and showed how China was using its economic power to censor speech by Americans in the United States.
The Rockets have been one of the most popular teams in China going back to the days of Yao Ming, so the negative reaction to Morey caused Fertitta to quickly insist the tweet wasn't a political statement from the team.
Several of the team's sponsors and partners in China, including the state broadcaster China Central Television and the livestreaming platform Tencent Sports, announced on Sunday that they would no longer broadcast Rockets games.
The NBA issued a statement of their own on Sunday following the initial developments, noting that they recognize Morey's remarks offended friends and fans in China but adding that they encourage individuals to research and speak about matters important to them.
United States lawmakers said the NBA's response was shameful and showed how China was using its economic power to censor speech by Americans in the US.
"There should be no discrepancy on the statement issued last night", he said. It's a tightrope walk particularly when two of the NBA's largest growth markets, China and India, also happen to be home to wildly different political cultures.
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"We are extremely disappointed with the inappropriate comments made by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who has undoubtedly seriously hurt the feelings of Chinese fans".
After being criticized by Chinese social media users, fashion brands Givenchy, Versace and Coach apologized for selling T-shirts that showed Hong Kong, as well as the Chinese territory of Macau and self-ruled Taiwan, as separate countries. "Everything is fine with Daryl and me".
The NBA won't discipline Morey, according to The Athletic, with others reporting saying that his job is not in jeopardy.
Meanwhile, as of Monday searches for the Houston Rockets on Chinese e-commerce sites Taobao and Pinduoduo using Chinese characters yielded a "no results" message. People's Daily also noted multinational corporations who likewise tested the line on Hong Kong have "paid a heavy price".
The furor is the latest example of an overseas brand caught in controversy over the Hong Kong protests.
The Rockets and the National Basketball Association in the U.S. distanced themselves from the tweet. "I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives", he added. It has unraveled, however, into an global incident that has caused outrage on two continents and left the NBA-ever-conscious of its image as an agent for social justice-groveling for forgiveness from angry Chinese fans and officials. The league has held video games in China since 2004, and the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets are set to play preseason video games in China on Thursday and Saturday.
The statement came amid a massive financial backlash against the Rockets in China, and was a clear attempt to isolate the controversy to Morey without punishing him, lest the retaliation reach the rest of the league. "They care about their community, the environment, politics, and they also care about fashion, music, and entertainment", said Silver.