The Houston Rockets' general manager wading into geopolitical waters which deals with a totalitarian communist regime could end up costing the organization millions.
Daryl Morey over the weekend tweeted his support for pro-democracy Hong Kong demonstrators, and in doing so created a firestorm that is causing a devastating effect on the Rockets’ business. Several Chinese companies have either suspended or cut ties with the organization over the tweet.
The uproar in China could cost the Rockets between $10 million and $25 million, the Houston Chronicle reported. American jobs in China could reportedly be at stake as well.
Morey attempted to extinguish the fire almost immediately.
“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,” he wrote in a subsequent tweet.
He added: “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.”
However, it’s clear the damage has already been done. Rockets products have been pulled from Alibaba and Nike stores in China. According to Reuters, an NBA-themed children’s play zone has also pulled Rockets products from its shelves.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been in damage control ever since. He said earlier this week the league “will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues.”
“It is inevitable that people around the world – including from America and China – will have different viewpoints over different issues,” Silver said in the statement. “It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences.”
Silver added: “This is about far more than growing our business ... Values of equality, respect and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA -- and will continue to do so. As an American-based basketball league operating globally, among our greatest contributions are these values of the game.”
Silver said later at a press conference the league was “apologetic” over the outcome, but was “not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of speech," though Morey appeared to do that himself in his damage-control tweet. Silver added that he “regrets” how so many Chinese people and NBA fans were upset by Morey's message.