UPDATE: The Chinese backlash against Daryl Morey and the Houston Rockets has caused team ownership to debate whether or not to oust him as general manager, according to John Gonzalez of The Ringer. Conflicting reports have emerged, however, as Sam Amick of The Athletic and Marc Stein of The New York Times have both tweeted Morey’s job is not in jeopardy.
They did note deny that this situation is getting ugly, however.
Original story below.
The strong bond between the Houston Rockets and China’s basketball operation is deteriorating at a breakneck pace after general manager Daryl Morey expressed solidarity with protesters in Hong Kong.
Chinese Basketball Association officials announced they are suspending cooperation with the Rockets, which had become one of the most popular teams in the nation following superstar Yao Ming’s Hall of Fame career in Houston as the game expanded its global footprint. Morey’s since-deleted tweet read, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong" in reference to increasingly violent protests over the state’s autonomy.
The response by both the franchise and China has been swift with Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta immediately denouncing Morey’s comments with his own 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
The CBA, which unanimously elected Yao chairman in 2017, added that it strongly opposed Morey’s “inappropriate” remarks and has additionally blocked Rockets games this season with a free offer for subscribers to switch “home teams” on its NBA League Pass-like streaming service.
Tencent now offers "switch home team" option to Rockets fans who bought single team pass. It could be the signal that Rockets games won't be broadcasted from now on. We will see the result next week. pic.twitter.com/BXIyEGVoE0— Yu Fu (@YuFu_tencent) October 6, 2019
The Rockets have reportedly also lost all Chinese sponsors as the blackout of the franchise begins to take hold.
Tencent, the digital rights holder of NBA in China, updated after they announced blacklist of Daryl Morey due to his 'Free HK' tweet: They will suspend all reports/streaming of Houston Rockets. Rockets subscribers are eligible to change service. NBA China market in trouble. pic.twitter.com/PGjWoZ8uPq— Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) October 6, 2019
The implications for the NBA are clearly massive here as the league has worked for years to build a loyal fanbase in China, becoming its most popular sport in the process.
Fertitta has since said that Morey’s job with the Rockets is safe, yet has liked multiple comments on Instagram calling for him to fire the GM.
Currently, the Houston Rockets are in Tokyo as part of the NBA Japan Games.
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