The NBA sided with China’s totalitarian government after Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey spoke out Friday in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
In the now-deleted tweet, Morey posted an image reading, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”
He was expressing his backing for the hundreds of thousands of activists protesting against oppression in the city.
Morey’s stance angered China’s communist government, which called it a “false statement.”
Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta tweeted Friday that Morey “does NOT speak” for the team, which he said is “NOT a political organization.”
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
Team ownership even considered terminating Morey over the incident in order to “mitigate the fallout, appease the Chinese government and business interests, and reestablish ties,” The Ringer reported.
On Sunday, Morey apologized for his tweet, causing even more backlash across the social media platform.
“I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China,” he tweeted. “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.”
Also Sunday, the NBA issued a statement criticizing Morey’s views on the Hong Kong protests.
“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,” the league said. “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.”
Twitter erupted over Morey’s backpedaling, and politicians from both parties criticized the Rockets and the NBA for kowtowing to China.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, tweeted, “As a lifelong @HoustonRockets fan, I was proud to see @dmorey call out the Chinese Communist Party’s repressive treatment of protestors in Hong Kong.
“Now, in pursuit of big $$, the @NBA is shamefully retreating.”
Another Republican, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, commented, “I thought the NBA was proud to be the ‘wokest professional sports league’? I guess that only applies to speaking out on American politics & politics & social issues.”
Democratic presidential candidate and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas tweeted, “The only thing the NBA should be apologizing for is their blatant prioritization of profits over human rights. What an embarrassment.”
“No one should implement a gag rule on Americans speaking out for freedom,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted. “I stand with the people of Hong Kong in their pursuit of democratic rights. I stand with Americans who want to voice their support for the people of Hong Kong. Unacceptable.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver weighed in on the issued Monday, telling the Japan Times, “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. …
“And I will just add that the fact that we have apologized to fans in China is not inconsistent with supporting someone’s right to have a point of view.”
Silver said he “would like to believe … that many sports fans that don’t pay all that much attention to politics, or to the situation in China and Hong Kong, may as a result know far more now about the situation.”
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