Rockets' China controversy: Sen. Rick Scott calls on NBA to put human rights over profit

Sen. Rick Scott called on NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Monday to put human rights over profit amid a row between China and the Houston Rockets over General Manager Daryl Morey’s tweet showing support for the Hong Kong protests.

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Scott, R-Fla., said in a statement he wanted to meet with Silver over the league’s alleged support of China and its refusal to stand with Hong Kong.

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“I am requesting a meeting with Commissioner Silver immediately to discuss the NBA’s involvement in Communist China. I was the first U.S. Senator to travel to Hong Kong since the protests began. What I saw was devastating,” Scott said. “Men and women are risking their lives to fight for the same freedom we take advantage of in this country. As Americans, it is our duty to stand together against injustice, and that means standing up to Communist China and President Xi as he violates the rights guaranteed under the 1997 handover of Hong Kong."

“We must all put human rights above profit. And that means standing with Hong Kong. The NBA’s refusal to denounce Communist China for what it is – our adversary – is shameful. The NBA should stop playing games in Communist China, and I look forward to meeting with Commissioner Silver to discuss the importance of supporting the brave individuals fighting to free themselves from the grip of Communist China.”

Morey, whose Rockets were playing preseason games in China, tweeted his support for the Hong Kong protesters, saying in a since-deleted tweet: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”

Several Chinese companies suspended work with the Rockets after Morey’s tweet. The general manager said in a separate tweet he was voicing his own opinion on the issues in Hong Kong.

“I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China,” he tweeted. “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 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.”

The Rockets have a strong following in China thanks to the most famous Chinese basketball player of all time, Yao Ming, who the team drafted in 2002. Yao is also the president of the country’s official basketball association.

Daryl Morey created controversy with a tweet in support of Hong Kong protesters. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)

“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 NBA said in a statement.

It’s unclear whether the NBA has any intention to meet with any lawmakers amid the row.

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Protests in Hong Kong have made worldwide news over the past couple of months due to growing violence between the government and those fighting for increased rights and freedom. China appears extremely sensitive to outside parties encouraging the demonstrators, especially within a group they have strong ties to.