Daryl Morey did the right thing — at first.
In a Friday night tweet that he has since deleted, the Houston Rockets general manager expressed support for the legions of protesters who have taken to the streets of Hong Kong.
The demonstrations started as a protest against a new Chinese extradition bill that opponents believe would lead to the disappearance of Hong Kong’s critics of the Chinese regime, as well as infringe upon the limited independence the semi-autonomous region enjoys. The bill was pulled in September, but the protesters have additional demands, including an independent inquiry on police brutality and the resignation of Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam.
These are understandable fears when dealing with a Communist regime like China’s. And the NBA has long been known as perhaps the most free-thinking, outspoken league when it comes to the politics of its players. (Just last week, the governor of California signed a controversial bill into law on a television show hosted by LeBron James, arguably the league’s most visible player.)
However, the problem for Morey is that the Chinese also love basketball. And thanks surely to the stardom of former Rockets great Yao Ming — now the head of the Chinese Basketball Association — Houston trailed only Golden State in popularity in the nation, per a recent survey. There appears to be too much money to be made in China for the NBA to stand up for human rights.
Yao himself responded to Morey’s tweet with condemnation, calling it “an inappropriate comment related to Hong Kong” and the CBA suspended its “exchanges and cooperation” with the Rockets. Chinese sportswear maker Li-Ning did the same, suspending its association with the team. The Chinese government also weighed in via its consulate, saying that it was “deeply shocked” by the tweet. The Rockets owner, Tilman Fertitta, quickly disowned Morey’s tweet:
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
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SOURCE: Rolling Stone, Jamil Smith