The NBA has apologized for a tweet made by Houston Rockets general manager in support of Hong Kong’s anti-communism movement.
Houston Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey made the tweet on Friday night, but was pressured into deleting the post after backlash, prompting his apology on Monday, the New York Times reported.
The deleted tweet had said, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” a message echoing that of Hong Kong protesters.
Chinese fans — like many Chinese citizens who view Hong Kong protesters as damaging to Chinese culture — were outraged by the message.
The Rockets, in particular, had generated a Chinese fan following due to the team’s draft of Chinese player Yao Ming in 2002, who played with the team until 2011, then went on to become president of the Chinese Basketball Association.
“I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China,” Morey tweeted in apology. “I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.”
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
“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,” he added.
The NBA reacted with a statement apologizing on Morey’s behalf, adding that those views ‘have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable.’
“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,” the NBA statement continued.
NEW: the NBA has released a statement on Daryl Morey: pic.twitter.com/FOI79W31b1
— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) October 7, 2019
“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 concluded.
Rockets star James Harden also issued an apology on Monday, alongside fellow Rockets guard Russell Westbrook.
“We apologize. You know, we love China, we love playing there. For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year,” Harden said.
“They show us the most important love. We appreciate them as a fan base. We love everything there about them and we appreciate the support that they give us individually and as organization,” Harden added.
The apologies were not enough for Chinese organizations, however.
Chinese sponsors halted deals with the Rockets. China’s media also withdrew Rockets’ games from their broadcasting schedule. Two events involving the Rockets have also been canceled.