The NBA and Houston Rockets are trying to distance themselves from a since-deleted tweet from general manager Daryl Morey, whose post about pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong drew rebuke from the Chinese Basketball Association.
The association, headed by former Rockets star center Yao Ming, said it would suspend cooperation with the Rockets and said Sunday via its official social media that it “strongly disagrees” with Morey’s “improper remarks” regarding Hong Kong.
Other Chinese sponsors followed suit, according to reports.
Morey’s post on Twitter consisted of an image of the protestors’ rally cay: “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”
Morey was back on social media Sunday with a pair of tweets about the incident:
“1/ I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. 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.”
The NBA won’t discipline Morey, according to The Athletic, with others reporting saying that his job is not in jeopardy.
The NBA also responded Sunday with a 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.”
Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous region in China, is in the midst of months-long protests — sometimes violent — with Beijing sensitive to foreign influence on the unrest.
The Rockets are in Tokyo for the NBA Japan Games 2019 featuring preseason games against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday and Thursday.
On Friday, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta wrote on Twitter: “Listen…. @dmorey does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets. Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the @NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization.”