NBA scrambles after China angered by Houston Rockets’ ‘regrettable’ pro-democracy tweet

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has tried to defuse the rapidly growing fallout over his deleted tweet that showed support for Hong Kong anti-government protesters, saying he did not intend to offend any of the team’s Chinese fans or sponsors. A short time after Morey posted that statement, the NBA said it was “regrettable” that the deleted tweet offended many in China. That followed several companies in China, including some of the NBA’s major business partners there, lashing out over Morey’s original tweet. The uproar started when Morey tweeted an image that read: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” It referred to the four-month old protest movement that has upturned the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. That led to Houston owner Tilman Fertitta turning to Twitter to say that Morey does not speak for the Rockets, and sparking an outcry that included the Chinese Basketball Association, whose president is former Rockets center Yao Ming, saying it was suspending its relationship with the team. Other criticism came from Tencent, a major media partner of the NBA in China with a streaming deal that is worth $1.5bn over the next five years, and Chinese state television both of which said they would not be showing Rockets games. It wasn’t immediately clear if Morey’s new tweets or the NBA’s statement that followed would be enough to salvage those relationships. Chinese athletic apparel maker Li-Ning also released a statement saying it was upset with Morey’s tweet. “I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China,” Morey tweeted early Monday from Japan, where Houston is playing this week. “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. Nick Note: America is no longer the protector of freedom. Now its the protector of big bucks for big corporations… the sell out continues. You will not like life as a slave.. Better get use to it.. Or have Plan B