In contrast to the Kaepernick-free NFL, the National Basketball Association and its players are outspoken about pressing social issues. Unless it’s about pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, when it breaks like a cheap toy purchased on AliExpress.
The controversy erupted after Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, one of the most popular U.S. basketball teams in China, appeared to support Hong Kong demonstrators in a tweet late Friday. While the message was deleted and both Morey and the National Basketball Association tried to distance themselves from it, the damage reverberated across both China and the U.S.
The NBA tried to limit the damage, saying in a statement that Morey’s comments were “regrettable.”
“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 the Chinese version of the statement, it added a further comment: “We are deeply disappointed about Morey’s inappropriate comment and he undoubtedly has hurt Chinese fans’ feelings severely.”
The NBA’s response echoed the cautious approach other companies have been taking in an effort not to offend China, but it immediately generated protests from U.S. politicians.
Cruz, a Texas Republican and longtime Rockets fan, tweeted that the NBA “is shamefully retreating” and said he was “proud” to see Morey’s original comment. Both Democratic presidential candidates from Texas also blasted the NBA, with Beto O’Rourke calling the apology “an embarrassment” and Julian Castro saying the U.S. can’t allow American citizens “to be bullied by an authoritarian government.”
Stand by for the inevitable Trump tweet about this, even though he’s done his own rolling over for China behind closed doors.
Flashback: Canada’s Cirque du Soleil boycotted North Carolina because of its homophobic “bathroom bill,” but kept performing in Russia and Dubai.