On Friday night, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted out an image in support of the protests in Hong Kong that read "Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong."
He later removed it after a public distancing from his boss, team owner Tilman Fertitta.
Fertitta told ESPN’s Tim McMahon that there is nothing personal between him and Morey, but that he felt he needed to clarify the organization’s non-political stance.
"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."
The Rockets are slated to play a preseason game in Japan next week, and they arrived in Tokyo on Saturday morning.
Hong Kong protests
Protests have roiled the streets of Hong Kong for the last four months that began over a proposed bill that would have allowed extradition of people from Hong Kong to mainland China.
Hong Kong has maintained an autonomous status from China under the “one country, two systems” policy since it was handed over from Britain in 1997, but recent tension has mounted in the city after perceived attempts from the mainland to assert authority over Hong Kong.
Even after the extradition bill was pulled back, violent protests have continued between demonstrators and police.
NBA’s popularity in China
Morey’s tweet drew attention from those on both sides of the issue, and the replies to his latest tweet are filled with discussions about the Hong Kong protests.
Some praised Morey for standing up for the protesters, while others noted that he was alienating fans in China, where the NBA is ever-popular. According to Forbes, the league has 180 million social media followers in China and 640 million people tuned in to NBA programming during the 2017-18 season. The Rockets also remain popular in China due to Yao Ming’s time with the team.
On Friday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver floated the idea of starting a basketball league in India, an indication that the league is looking to grow its brand in Asia.
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