UPDATED 10/07, 10:40 a.m. ET: Following the backlash for the tweets made by Rockets GM Daryl Morey, James Harden has issued an apology. During an interview around the team's two exhibition games in Tokyo, Harden said, "We apologize. We love china." He continued, "We love playing there. Both of us. We go there once or twice a year. They show us most support so we appreciate them."
The Chinese Basketball Association has yet to respond to the apologies from both Morey and Harden. In response to the comments, state broadcaster CCTV announced it will stop airing Rockets games.
See original story below.
The Houston Rockets have been a beloved basketball team in China for some time. According to NBC Sports, 2019’s “red card” report reveals that the Rockets were still the second-most popular team in China behind the Golden State Warriors.
However, that’s all about to change following a now-deleted tweet by Rockets GM Daryl Morey, which showed support for Hong Kong protestors. The Chinese Basketball Association has since announced that it has ended cooperation with the Rockets, and that the company with NBA broadcast rights in China will no longer cover Rockets games until Morey supplies a “reasonable explanation” (which likely means an apology).
The situation reflects just how sensitive China still is to the protests taking place in Hong Kong. The protests have been continuing for months, which “started with people in the semi-autonomous region protesting a new extradition law that allowed Hong Kong residents to be sent to mainland China,” NBC writes.
Last Friday, when the Rockets were traveling to Japan for a preseason game, Morey tweeted about the ongoing protests, posting the image and slogan “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”
Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta immediately censured Morey, quote-tweeting the GM and writing that he “does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets.”
Fertitta told ESPN to “not read too much into this" and called Morey "the best general manager in the league.” Still, there have been rumors that the pair’s relationship might not last and that this incident could worsen any friction. According to a tweet from Bleacher Report, the Rockets have considered replacing Morey.
On Sunday, Morey addressed the controversy on Twitter.
The NBA also released a statement on Sunday.
Shams Charania reports that the NBA will not discipline Morey.