The NBA’s apology over a “regrettable” comment on China by the Houston Rockets’ general manager scored a wave of backlash and criticism.
U.S. lawmakers, journalists and social media users slammed the NBA — already a controversial organization thanks to politically outspoken players — after it issued a statement seeking to smooth over the rift created by Daryl Morey after he tweeted support for thousands of Hong Kong protesters, sparking immediate backlash from China.
“Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” he tweeted on Friday in support of the demonstrations, many of which have turned violent in the last few days as the government’s ties to Beijing are being protested.
Here was the tweet as far as i know. pic.twitter.com/pC6Y3yV43z
— はいい (@clown1208) October 7, 2019
Though Morey deleted his tweet and soon issued an apology, the Chinese Basketball Association suspended ties with the Rockets. The Chinese Consulate in Houston also reportedly condemned the tweet in a letter to the team.
— Wu Lebao?? (@MerlotN) October 6, 2019
Morey tweeted that he did not intend “to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China.”
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.
— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) October 7, 2019
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
Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta denounced Morey’s original 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
It was soon clear that Morey’s job could be in jeopardy over his now-deleted comment.
Two sources with knowledge of the Rockets’ ownership thinking strongly refute the Ringer report indicating that the GM Daryl Morey’s job is in jeopardy as a result of the Hong Kong tweet-China situation. That being said, it’s undeniably a mess.
— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) October 6, 2019
The NBA soon issued a statement on the tweet saying that it does not stand by the tweet.
“While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them,” the statement read. “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.”
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) October 7, 2019
But that statement drew the ire of many more on social media who were appalled at the “gutless” response.
The NBA statement on @dmorey tweet is so incredibly gutless.
Is free speech not a thing the NBA values?
— Chris Cillizza (@CillizzaCNN) October 7, 2019
Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley slammed the NBA in a tweet while referring to China’s many human rights abuses.
Chinese govt has a million people locked in concentration camps & is trying to brutally repress Hong Kong demonstrators – and NBA wants to “bridge cultural divides”? Cultural divides? https://t.co/d6jXQOzb5F
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) October 7, 2019
Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz announced he was “proud” of Morey for calling out the Chinese communist government and blasted the NBA for valuing money more than human rights.
We’re better than this; human rights shouldn’t be for sale & the NBA shouldn’t be assisting Chinese communist censorship.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) October 7, 2019
Florida’s Republican Sen. Rick Scott called the NBA’s statement “shameful.”
It’s clear that the @NBA is more interested in money than human rights. Tonight’s statement from Commissioner Silver is an absolute joke.
— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) October 7, 2019
California Democrat Rep. Eric Swalwell took aim at Rockets owner Fertitta, condemning his decision for “siding with communism.”
Listen….some things are more important than money. Like doing the right thing. @dmorey tweeted about human rights and supporting #HongKongProtests. How ironic that you’re siding with communism to advance your greed. https://t.co/RoyJ3o3bbY
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) October 7, 2019
Many others on Twitter came out in defense of Morey’s truth-telling while calling out the NBA.
The @NBA statement is a disgrace. Stop putting the almighty ? before human rights, for once.
— US Rep Brendan Boyle (@RepBrendanBoyle) October 7, 2019
This is a mistake that they should fix quickly. https://t.co/qNmKNTdksV
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) October 7, 2019
Julián, glad to agree with you on this one. https://t.co/0V7PHY1iIW
— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) October 7, 2019
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