A tweet by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has pushed the team into an international incident, explains an ESPN story.
The Chinese Basketball Association announced this morning that it will suspend cooperation with the Rockets after Morey expressed his support for protesters in Hong Kong who are demanding democratic reforms. Morey’s now-deleted tweet read, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”
On its Weibo account today, the CBA blasted Morey for “improper remarks regarding Hong Kong” and expressed “strong opposition” to his statement. The controversy comes as the Rockets are in Japan for a pair of games with the Raptors.
China has maintained a close relationship with the Rockets ever since current CBA Chairman Yao Ming was drafted by Houston in 2002. The Rockets wear an alternate jersey that features Chinese lettering, and James Harden conducted a promotional tour of the nation this summer.
China is also an extremely important market for the NBA as it expands its overseas popularity. It has become the nation’s most popular foreign sports league, with China playing host to the World Cup last month.
Among those reacting to Morey’s tweet when it appeared Friday was Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, who stressed that the franchise should not serve as a platform for political views.
“Listen….@dmorey does NOT speak for the Houston Rockets,” Fertitta tweeted. “Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization.”
Fertitta stressed to ESPN that he still has full confidence in Morey as a GM and the incident won’t affect his job security.
“I have the best general manager in the league,” Fertitta said. “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.”