The general manager of the Houston Rockets found himself embroiled in controversy after tweeting in support of the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
Daryl Morey published the tweet on Friday, writing “Stand with Hong Kong” along with an image, but quickly took down the post following an immediate backlash. The message not only put Morey in hot water but also the NBA as a whole.
On Sunday, Morey added on Twitter by writing, “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.”
“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,” he continued, clarifying that his views were not representative of the Rockets or the NBA.
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.
— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) October 7, 2019
Following the upset, Mike Bass, a spokesperson for the NBA defended Morey’s right to express his own views on the issue.
“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,’’ he said.
“We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the N.B.A. can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.”
However, the league presented a very different stance in their statement on Weibo, stating that they were “extremely disappointed in the inappropriate comment.”
It added that “He has undoubtedly seriously hurt the feelings of Chinese basketball fans.”
The new owner of the Brooklyn Nets and billionaire co-founder of Alibaba also commented on the matter, referring to the protest as a “separatist movement” and writing, “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.”
As a result of Morey’s statements, the Rockets were rebuked by the Chinese Basketball Association whose president is Yao Ming, a former Rocket himself.
Several Chinese companies have also stated that they would pause partnerships with the team, risking millions of dollars in revenue.
CCTV 5 announced it would suspend showing Rockets games, while Tencent Sports also plans to halt live streaming and reporting news about the team, NY Post reported.
In response to the situation, Tilman Fertitta, owner of the Rockets took to Twitter to clarify that Morey did not speak for the team.
Later, Fertitta told ESPN, “Everything is fine with Daryl and me. We got a huge backlash, and I wanted to make clear that the organization has no political position. We’re here to play basketball and not to offend anybody.”
While this statement was pointed towards quelling tensions abroad, this stance did not sit well with many fans back home.
Several Democrats and Republicans also weighed in on the situation on Twitter, with Senator Ted Cruz also calling this to be “shamefully retreating.”
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) October 7, 2019
Rick Scott, a Republican senator from Florida, also added that the NBA’s statement was “an absolute joke.”
The only thing the NBA should be apologizing for is their blatant prioritization of profits over human rights. What an embarrassment. https://t.co/bbiwCBTwc1
— Beto O’Rourke (@BetoORourke) October 7, 2019
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke also pitched in, writing on Twitter, “The only thing the NBA should be apologizing for is their blatant prioritization of profits over human rights. What an embarrassment.”