The NBAs reaction to one of its executives speaking out on the anti-government protests in Hong Kong has received criticism from several US politicians

The NBAs reaction to one of its executives speaking out on the anti-government protests in Hong Kong has received criticism from several US politicians.

The controversy started when the Houston Rockets general manager, Daryl Morey, tweeted his support for protesters in Hong Kong, where police have used live ammunition on civilians after months of demonstrations. Morey deleted the tweet shortly afterwards and the NBA and the Rockets distanced themselves from his statement. The NBA said it was regrettable that the tweet had caused offence in China, and the Rockets said Moreys views did not represent those of the team.

The NBAs statement is jarring to some, given the fact that the league has won plaudits for encouraging its players to express their views on social issues they believe are important. Texas senator Ted Cruz, who is a Rockets fan, condemned the NBAs stance on Sunday. Were better than this; human rights shouldnt be for sale & the NBA shouldnt be assisting Chinese communist censorship, he wrote on Twitter.

Julian Castro, a Democratic presidential candidate, expressed similar views. China is using its economic power to silence critics even those in the US, he tweeted. 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.

Julin Castro (@JulianCastro)

China is using its economic power to silence criticseven those in the U.S.

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

October 7, 2019

On Monday the NBAs commissioner, Adam Silver insisted the league supported free speech.

There is no doubt, the economic impact is already clear, Silver told Kyodo News in Tokyo, where the Rockets are due to play this week. There have already been fairly dramatic consequences from that tweet, and I have read some of the media suggesting that we are not supporting Daryl Morey, but in fact we have. I think as a values-based organisation that I want to make it clear … that Daryl Morey is supported in terms of his ability to exercise his freedom of expression.

There has been a widespread backlash to Moreys tweet in China. The countrys basketball association is headed by former Rockets star Yao Ming and described Moreys tweet as improper remarks regarding Hong Kong. Chinese state television and media company Tencent, which has a $1.5bn deal to televise the NBA in China over the next five years, have said they will cut ties with the Rockets. The Communist Partys official newspaper, Peoples Daily, wrote that Moreys comments were hurtful to Chinese basketball fans and is also an affront to the Chinese people.

It is easy to see why the Rockets and the NBA are eager to avoid alienating fans in China. The league has been growing its fanbase in China successfully for three decades, and many players have lucrative sponsorship deals in the country. The Rockets in particular have a strong following in China due to Ming, one of his countrys most popular ever athletes.

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 leagues chief communications officer, Mike Bass, said on Sunday.

LeBron James, the leagues biggest and most marketable star, is in China this week, where he will play for the Los Angeles Lakers against the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets owner is Joe Tsai, a co-founder of the Chinese retail giant Alibaba. Tsai said that Morey had touched on a third-rail issue by tweeting his support for the Hong Kong protestors.

By now I hope you can begin to understand why the Daryl Morey tweet is so damaging to the relationship with our fans in China, Tsai wrote on Facebook. I dont know Daryl personally. I am sure hes a fine NBA general manager, and I will take at face value his subsequent apology that he was not as well informed as he should have been. But the hurt that this incident has caused will take a long time to repair.

On Monday, the Rockets star player, James Harden, aligned his views with those of his team and the NBA. We apologise. You know, we love China. We love playing there, said Harden, who was voted the leagues most valuable player in 2018. For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love.

The new NBA season starts on 22 October.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

 

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