“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 support for protesters in Hong Kong with a 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. Free expression is a fundamental human right that at no cost should be regulated or punished for exercising.
Predictably, China swiftly showed their disinterest in the basic human right of free expression. Chinese broadcasters, such as Tencent Holdings, who have a lucrative partnership with the NBA to stream games has suspended the airing of Rockets games. Shoe company, Li Ning and the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Card Center both paused their sponsorship deals with the Rockets. Surprisingly, 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 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 driven by the prospect to make money in China’s growing market, and is willing to comply to an immoral China 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 and take part in their greed for power. Tilman Fertitta, and anyone who subscribes to his values should be nothing but purely ashamed.
The NBAs efforts to remove itself from the Hong Kong protests were met with disapproval from Americans and proponents for democracy around the world. The pro-democracy movement is the one thing all Democrats, Republicans, and Americans can agree on despite their differences. Senator Ted Cruz, republican from Texas, tweeted that the NBA was “Now, in pursuit of big $$, the @nba is shamefully retreating.” A prime example that the NBA’s 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. 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.