Over the weekend, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey Tweeted and deleted an image that read, "Fight For Freedom, Stand With Hong Kong" as act of solidarity with pro-democracy protestors. And the blow back has been pretty massive.
The original Tweet was immediately deleted and NBA fans in China descended on Morey with blood in their eyes and the pride of a nation on their sleeves.
The situation in Hong Kong isn't as confusing as many people are making it out to be. Basically, Hong Kong's government was going to pass a law allowing criminal trials to be extradited to mainland China where the conviction rate sits at 99.9%, and millions of Hong Kong citizens went out to protest the law. The decent into chaos that followed, is what is confusing, not the need to stand and fight an oppressive government like China.
The issue here is how China reacted to the Tweet, which they see, not as a support for democracy, which China has none, but as a direct attack on what many mainland Chinese see as a "separatist movement" trying to split their country in half.
We should also note that the Houston Rockets were, until this weekend, the biggest NBA team in China, but since Morey's tweet, the CBA and a number of Chinese sponsors, along with Tencent, the digital broadcaster with the right to stream NBA games in China, all decided to cut ties with the Rockets. What does this mean?
Well, that the Rocket no longer exist in China, like they're gone, poof, good-bye. Rocket's game will not be streamed, their merchandize will not be sold and they will never been mentioned again, or for as long as this riff lasts. The rockets were even removed from China's biggest NBA forum.
You're probably thinking, so what, it's China, who gives a sh*t, and you're right, we don't expect China to do the right thing and this reaction is highly overblown, but many people are shaken at what the NBA is doing to calm the issue.
First, Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta distanced himself from Morey and even said that his words do not represent the Rockets or the NBA.
"I the owner of the Houston Rocket do not care that China jails people who speak their mind freely, no do I care that they harvest the organs from poor criminals, Daryl Morey might, but me and the NBA do not. Please let us make money in China, please".
And then Morey made a statement as well.
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
And all this would be less shocking if the NBA hadn't been such an outspoken force for social good and change. In 2014, the NBA moved the planned All-Star game from Charlotte North Carolina due to the Transgender bathroom bill that was going through their legislature. Which at the time seemed like a "good thing" to do, and yes it was, but now that the NBA is in a similar situation, and facing loosing at a lot more money, things aren't the same.
Joe Tsai the new owner of the Brooklyn Nets and co-founder of the company Alibaba, released an open letter to NBA fans addressing the issue. As a Chinese American, Tsai tried to bridge the gap and help show why Chinese people were so offended. Yet, he shared the post on Twitter linking to a post on Facebook, which are both banned in China. Also, Tsai referred to the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong as separatists protests, which is bullshit.
*This article is currently being researched and updated*