Report: Daryl Morey Supporters Think Joe Tsai Wanted Exec Fired over Hong Kong Tweet

Adam WellsApril 14, 2022

Philadelphia 76ers general manager Daryl Morey takes questions from the media at a practice at the NBA basketball team's facility, Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, in Camden. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
AP Photo/Chris Szagola

Nearly three years after Daryl Morey's tweet in support of Hong Kong, the reverberations are still being felt throughout the NBA. 

ESPN's Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru reported Thursday that Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai made a push for the NBA to fire Morey in the wake of his post on social media. 

According to Fainaru-Wada and Fainaru, the Nets and NBA denied Tsai made an attempt to get Morey fired or pushed the league to issue an apology. 

Thursday's article described Tsai as "the face of [the] NBA's uneasy relationship with China" as part of an investigation into the league's expansion in the market, which has come while China stands accused of multiple human-rights violations.

On Oct. 4, 2019, Morey, who was general manager of the Houston Rockets at the time, tweeted, "Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong."

The tweet was issued amid protests in Hong Kong over the Fugitive Offenders amendment bill on extradition. The bill, originally introduced in April 2019, would make it legal for the Chinese government to extradite suspected criminals to mainland China in certain circumstances. 

Per the BBC, critics of the bill noted the amendment "risked exposing Hongkongers to unfair trials and violent treatment" and "argued the bill would give China greater influence over Hong Kong and could be used to target activists and journalists."

Morey deleted the tweet, and Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta distanced the franchise from Morey's words:

Tilman Fertitta @TilmanJFertitta

Listen....<a href="https://twitter.com/dmorey?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@dmorey</a> does NOT speak for the <a href="https://twitter.com/HoustonRockets?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@HoustonRockets</a>. Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the <a href="https://twitter.com/NBA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NBA</a> internationally and we are NOT a political organization. <a href="https://twitter.com/espn?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@espn</a> <a href="https://t.co/yNyQFtwTTi">https://t.co/yNyQFtwTTi</a>

Morey's tweet came out eight days before the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets played a preseason game at Universiade Sports Center in China's Guangdong province.

China Central Television blacked out NBA games in the country for 18 months, beginning in October 2020, before showing a Los Angeles Clippers-Utah Jazz game on March 30. 

ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz estimated the NBA lost at least $200 million in revenue from China during the 2019-20 season. 

Tsai, who co-founded Chinese multinational tech company Alibaba Group, initially bought a 49 percent stake in the Nets in 2017. He has been seen as an instrumental figure in the NBA's attempts to expand its business in China.  

In September 2019, Tsai completed the acquisition of full governorship of the Nets and Barclays Center from previous owner Mikhail Prokhorov.