Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey issued an apology on Sunday for a tweet sent out regarding the Hong Kong protests. Morey's job appears to be safe, according to multiple reports, and he will not be disciplined by the league for his words, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. The now-deleted message read simply "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong," but has led to significant repercussions for the Rockets in China.
Tencent, the NBA's exclusive digital partner in China, has suspended business relations with the Rockets, and is offering fans who purchased a year-long "team pass" to watch Rockets games the chance to switch it to a different team. A number of other Chinese companies have pulled sponsorship deals with the Rockets as well. Morey issued the following statement on Twitter:
I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. 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.
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 are extremely popular in China due in large part to Yao Ming. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft spent his entire career in Houston, and is by far the biggest Chinese star that the league has ever seen. He is currently the president of the Chinese Basketball Association and has not played in the NBA since 2011, but the Rockets have remained one of China's favorite NBA teams.
Houston team owner Tilman Fertitta indicated in a separate tweet Saturday that Morey's job is not in jeopardy, but that his words do not represent the team and that the Rockets are an apolitical organization.
Morey's job security was brought into question by John Gonzalez of The Ringer. He reported "that Rockets ownership has 'absolutely discussed' whether Morey should be removed as general manager in an attempt to mitigate the fallout." Sam Amick of The Athletic and Marc Stein of The New York Times have both reported that Morey is not expected to lose his job due to the controversy, which would fall in line with Fertitta's tweet.
The NBA responded late Sunday with a statement of its own, indicating that it respects Morey's right to speak out on the issue, but that his views do not reflect those of the Rockets or the league.
We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable. While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals' educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them. 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 league will surely attempt to resolve the issue privately with China, but for now, it appears as though the Rockets will not be seen in China this season.