The National Basketball Association showed Sunday where it stood on the matter of Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and the backlash against his now-deleted tweet in support of a free Hong Kong.
The league released a statement ceding that Morey’s tweet — which included a graphic reading "Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong." — had “deeply offended” the league’s Chinese fans and did not represent the views of the Rockets or NBA.
The full statement:
We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable. 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. 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.
The statement came amid a massive financial backlash against the Rockets in China, and was a clear attempt to isolate the controversy to Morey without punishing him, lest the retaliation reach the rest of the league.
The league’s evaluation of supporting the Hong Kong protests — which police have responded to with force that is “clearly excessive, violating international human rights law” according to Amnesty International — as deeply offensive and the perception that the league was conceding the matter to protect its significant financial presence in China led to condemnation from politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Politicians criticizing the league included several senators, house representatives and presidential candidates, including both U.S. senators from Texas. Among the league’s defenders was new Brooklyn Nets owner Joseph Tsai, the only Chinese majority owner in the NBA.
Politicians denounce NBA’s statement on China and Rockets GM
No one should implement a gag rule on Americans speaking out for freedom.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) October 7, 2019
I stand with the people of Hong Kong in their pursuit of democratic rights.
I stand with Americans who want to voice their support for the people of Hong Kong.
As a lifelong @HoustonRockets fan, I was proud to see @dmorey call out the Chinese Communist Party’s repressive treatment of protestors in Hong Kong.— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) October 7, 2019
Now, in pursuit of big $$, the @nba is shamefully retreating. https://t.co/7waMde5KrM
China is trying to use its market power to silence free speech and criticism of its conduct. In response, the NBA chose its pocketbook over its principles—and our values. We should all be speaking out in support of those protesting for their rights. https://t.co/IRiIY1cgDg— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 7, 2019
China is using its economic power to silence critics—even those in the U.S.— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) October 7, 2019
The United States must lead with our values and speak out for pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong, and not allow American citizens to be bullied by an authoritarian government. https://t.co/87U4jgsAAp
Julián, glad to agree with you on this one. https://t.co/0V7PHY1iIW— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) October 7, 2019
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
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
The NBA is kowtowing to Beijing to protect their bottom line and disavowing those with the temerity to #standwithHongKong. Shameful! https://t.co/RBPJa04xzK
This is a mistake that they should fix quickly. https://t.co/qNmKNTdksV— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) October 7, 2019
Thousands in Hong Kong are peacefully protesting in support of the same freedom of speech that makes America great. Meanwhile, the NBA seems more worried about losing business than standing up for freedom.— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) October 7, 2019
The NBA is standing with the authoritarian Chinese government as they suppress democracy and shoot people in the street. I stand with the people of Hong Kong. https://t.co/QcUznmkpyx— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) October 7, 2019
.@NBA is throwing the GM of @HoustonRockets under the bus to please the Communist Chinese Govt.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) October 7, 2019
They allow #China to punish a U.S. citizen for free speech in order to protect NBA’s market access in China.
Disappointed @NBA would cow to the pressure of China's authoritarian regime. Employees should be able to speak freely in support of freedom and democracy abroad, not just in the US. Spreading basketball abroad is about values, not just cash. The Chinese people deserve better.— Jackie Speier (@RepSpeier) October 7, 2019
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
Daryl Morey is right. We have an obligation to stand with Hong Kong and hold the CCP accountable for its gross violations of human rights. His willingness to speak the truth is a great embodiment of the @NBA’s global social responsibility campaign. https://t.co/eAdpxCpPJi— Rep. Mike Gallagher (@RepGallagher) October 6, 2019
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
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also voiced her opinion by retweeting a post calling the NBA’s handling of the matter as “shameful and cannot stand.”
Senator request meeting with Adam Silver
Florida senator Rick Scott took the condemnation a step forward Monday morning by announcing that he is requesting a meering with NBA commissioner Adam Silver to discuss the league’s involvement in China.
We must put human rights above profit. And that means standing with #HongKong. The NBA’s refusal to denounce Communist China is shameful.— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) October 7, 2019
I'm requesting a meeting with @NBA Commissioner Silver to discuss the importance of supporting the brave individuals fighting for freedom. pic.twitter.com/ky21Qhw6HT
Nets owner weighs in on Morey situation
In a lengthy open letter, Tsai defends the anger directed against Morey as a product of a painful Chinese history, which should apparently allow them to treat Hong Kong protesters as a “separatist movement” that must be suppressed. He questionably claims that “1.4 billion Chinese citizens stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China and the country's sovereignty over homeland.”
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