“Houston, we Have a Problem,” NBA Houston Rockets Executive Sets Fire to China’s Twittersphere
Over the weekend Houston Rockets general manager, Daryl Morey, justly showed his personal support for protestors in Hong Kong with a modest and sympathetic tweet, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” It’s a view that should set hearts on fire with support in the United States and all those who believe in freedom.
However, China quickly showed their disinterest in the basic human right of free expression and the punishments that follow for exercising this value. Chinese broadcasters, such as Tencent Holdings, who have a lucrative partnership with the NBA to stream games has suspended the airing of Rockets games. The shoe company Li Ning and the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Card Center both paused their sponsorship deals with the Rockets. Also, the Chinese Basketball Association, led by the former NBA and Rockets hall of famer, Yao Ming, suspended connections with the Houston team.
The NBAs reaction left many confused as they tried to smooth over and plead with China rather than defend free expression. The NBA began by releasing a statement on Mr. Morey stating “We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable . . . We have great respect for the history and culture of China . . . divides and brings people together.” It’s clear that the NBA is fanatical by the prospect to make money in China’s growing market, and it has made it clearer that it is willing to follow China’s values to save that chance.
Tilman Fertitta, the owner of the Rockets, quickly expressed on twitter the traditional spiel that fights to claim asylum for international capitalists and that business can be segregated from political concerns. In this shameful tweet, the Billionaire threw his own general manager under the bus so that he can continue to shake hands with totalitarians who have dominated a sixth of the world’s population and continue to act on their greed for power. Tilman Fertitta should be nothing but purely ashamed of himself.
The NBAs efforts to remove itself from the Hong Kong protests were met with disapproval from Americans back home and proponents for democracy around the world. The pro-democracy movement seams to be one thing both all Democrats, Republicans, and Americans can agree on no matter their differences. Senator Ted Cruz, republican from Texas, tweeted that the NBA was “Now, in pursuit of big $$, the @nba is shamefully retreating.” This is a prime example that the NBAs actions to further its pursuit of prioritizing money over human rights is cowardly and spineless.
Hope is not lost for a league that usually supports its basketball stars who regularly speak out on social and political issues without fear of punishment from the league. Americans can still lead with their values and continue to speak out for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, as long as they do not allow themselves to be intimidated by an authoritarian government.