Breaking Down the Crazy Drama Between China and The NBA
A clash between the People’s Republic of China and the NBA over a tweet made by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey has reached unprecedented heights.
The conflict started after Morey expressed his support for Hong Kong in a tweet on October 4, referring to the ongoing protests: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”
The Houston Rockets general manager later took the post down following the backlash.
Morey made a public statement on his Twitter account on Sunday.
1/ 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.
2/ 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.
Following Morey’s tweet, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver clarified the league’s stance on the issue, saying they will not censor their players’ or team executives’ views.
“It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences,” Silver said in a statement, according to The Washington Post.
Adam Silver says he wants to be clear that “We are not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression,” but that he does regret “that so many people are upset, including millions and millions of our fans.” pic.twitter.com/7R1JCanlbS
“However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way,” Silver continued.
Houston Rockets star James Harden apologized for Morey’s tweet by saying, “We apologize. We love China.”
However, on Wednesday, he expressed his support for Silver’s freedom of speech, Shanghaiist noted.
“We all have freedom of speech, that is the world we live in,” Harden said. “Everyone should (say) how they feel and their thought process, be able to speak it. Obviously some people are going to feel some type of ways, others are going to agree. That is just the world we live in. I am here for Adam Silver.”
Morey’s and Silver’s comments have caused a ripple effect in both countries. In China, the Shanghai Sports Federation reportedly canceled a fan event on Wednesday that would benefit the Special Olympics.
Going on now: the big signage for the NBA Lakers Nets game in Shanghai is being taken down. Game hasn’t been played yet btw pic.twitter.com/dTkMeZpQgs
Since when did we need the Communist Party of China’s approval to have an opinion? It’s a sad day when Americans can’t come out in support of freedom & democracy without fear of retaliation. Hey @NBA: In America, we put free speech ahead of contracts. https://t.co/g4YpLmBfiY
China is using its economic power to silence critics—even those in the U.S.
The United States must lead with our values and speak out for pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong, and not allow American citizens to be bullied by an authoritarian government. https://t.co/87U4jgsAAp
.@dmorey is right & @NBA is wrong: we ought to support brave Hong Kongers struggling for freedom, not their Chinese communist oppressors. @NBA, don’t be the capitalists who will sell the rope used to hang you.
In his open letter, the 55-year-old entrepreneur and co-founder of Alibaba Group, explains, “Supporting a separatist movement in a Chinese territory is one of those third-rail issues, not only for the Chinese government, but also for all citizens in China.”
Tsai went on to recount China being attacked by the combined forces of the British and French armies during the two Opium Wars from 1839 to 1842 and from 1856 to 1860.
Following the Opium Wars, China also saw an uprising between the years 1899 and 1901, which became known as the Boxer Rebellion, after Chinese peasants saw an increase of foreign influence in the country.
“In response, the Eight Nations Alliance – comprised of Japan, Russia, Britain, France, United States, Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary – dispatched their forces to occupy Chinese territories in the name of humanitarian intervention,” Tsai wrote. “The foreign forces marched into the Chinese capital Peking (now called Beijing), defeated the peasant rebels and proceeded to loot and pillage the capital city.”
“When the topic of any separatist movement comes up, Chinese people feel a strong sense of shame and anger because of this history of foreign occupation,” Tsai said.
“By now I hope you can begin to understand why the Daryl Morey tweet is so damaging to the relationship with our fans in China,” Tsai continued in his open letter. “I don’t know Daryl personally. I am sure he’s a fine NBA general manager, and I will take at face value his subsequent apology that he was not as well informed as he should have been. But the hurt that this incident has caused will take a long time to repair.”
“I hope to help the League to move on from this incident,” he said in his closing remark. “I will continue to be an outspoken NBA Governor on issues that are important to China.”