NBA Commissioner Adam Silver pushed back on the notion the league is not supporting Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey after he posted a tweet in favor of Hong Kong independence over the weekend.
“There is no doubt, the economic impact is already clear,” Silver told Kyodo News (h/t the AP's Tim Reynolds) on Monday. “There have already been fairly dramatic consequences from that tweet, and I have read some of the media suggesting that we are not supporting Daryl Morey, but in fact we have.”
Chinese sponsors and television networks have pulled out of their agreements with the Rockets in the days following Morey's tweet, which read "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong." Morey later deleted the tweet after taking criticism, and Rockets governor Tilman Fertitta distanced himself from the statement.
"I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China," Morey tweeted in an apology Sunday. "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 NBA also issued a statement, saying it understands Morey may have "deeply offended" Chinese fans:
“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.”
Some saw that statement as the league attempting to distance itself from Morey, one of the NBA's most respected general managers. The NBA has been largely supportive of players and league executives speaking their minds on political matters—particularly since President Donald Trump took office. Trump has criticized the NBA and its players on numerous occasions, and NBA no team has visited his office during his presidency.
However, there is a potentially severe economic impact on Morey's statements. China is a communist country in a conflict with Hong Kong, a city that is considered a "special administrative region," which gives it some independence under a Chinese rule. Many in Hong Kong have taken to the streets to protest in favor of full sovereignty, in part due to displeasure with the central Chinese government.
Marc Stein of the New York Times reported the Rockets are not planning to issue any disciplinary action for Morey's comments.