President Donald Trump held a meeting with restaurant industry leaders on Monday to discuss reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, who also is the CEO of the hospitality company Landry’s Inc., was part of that meeting at the White House — and cracked a joke about his general manager’s Hong Kong tweet.
Even months later, and after a pandemic halted the NBA season, Fertitta clearly still isn’t over the tweet.
“You know, it’s funny you brought up about China,” Fertitta said in the meeting while Trump laughed. “I should have realized it was gonna be a bad year for China when my general manager tweeted out, ‘Freedom for Hong Kong.’ That started my year with China. I’m still trying to work that out.”
The interaction between Tilman Fertitta and President Donald Trump about #Rockets GM Daryl Morey— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) May 18, 2020
Fertitta: “You know, it’s funny you brought up about China. I should have realized it was gonna be a bad year for China when my general manager tweeted out “Freedom for Hong Kong.” pic.twitter.com/oywIGoDgsW
‘Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong’
Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted seven words in October, which seemed to spark an immediate feud between China and the NBA.
Morey tweeted out an image in support of the pro-democracy protesters in their fight against the Chinese government in Hong Kong that read, “Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong.”
The tweet was later deleted, and Fertitta quickly distanced himself and the Rockets from that statement.
“What ever happened to him, by the way? Is he still working for you? He must be pretty good,” Trump asked Fertitta on Monday.
“Yes, he is. It’s a trick question, but he is,” Fertitta answered.
How that’s a “trick question,” however, isn’t clear.
Trump shocked at Harden’s, Westbrook’s salary
The sidetracked conversation continued.
“What did you do with your basketball players that are making $25 million a year?” Trump asked.
Fertitta, presuming that Trump was asking about stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook, then told him that they made nearly $40 million this year.
“By the way,” Trump added, addressing the rest of the room, “they are good players.”
Trump circled back to that topic later in the conversation, too, asking again if the two are making $40 million a year before wishing Fertitta good luck.
President Trump: Good luck with the basketball, you've got a hell of a team. Say hello to those two great players, all of your players, but man, they can play— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) May 18, 2020
Fertitta: They can play
Trump: So you say they make 40 a year?
Fertitta: Russell and James both make 40 million a year pic.twitter.com/aIBQv7T4jv
Trump asks about rest of NBA season
Trump also asked Fertitta about the possibility of finishing out the NBA season, which Fertitta thought can potentially happen but didn’t offer any firm solution or timeline to do so.
The NBA and commissioner Adam Silver are currently weighing several options to resume play amid the pandemic, though have yet to come up with a plan to resume the 2019-20 season.
Tilman Fertitta and President Trump talking about James Harden and Russell Westbrook— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) May 18, 2020
Trump: What did you do with your basketball players that are making 25 million a year?
Fertitta: I have two of them that make 40. Russell and James.
Trump: By the way, they are good players. pic.twitter.com/DZjTZ7r35U
“Could you go immediately to playoffs? Or is that not really possible?” Trump asked.
“I think we would play some games just to get it going again and create the interest, and then go right into the playoffs,” Fertitta replied, while Trump chimed in with an, “I agree.”
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