NBA apologizes to China for pro-Hong Kong tweet

Category:  Opinions
Friday, October 18th, 2019 at 4:02 PM
NBA apologizes to China for pro-Hong Kong tweet by Beau Bruneau
Graphic: Tyler Hendricks

The protests involving Hong Kong have people talking. As with most issues, people have differing opinions, but what if China as a whole differs from your opinion?

On Oct. 4, Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted an image that said: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” During the time, the NBA had recently decided to have some preseason games in international spots such as Tokyo and Shanghai. China became so irate they did not broadcast the game in Shanghai. They canceled all forms of media coverage regarding the game.

Responding to China’s anger, Tilman Fertitta, owner of the Houston Rockets, tweeted: "Listen...Morey does NOT speak for the Houston Rockets. Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization.”

Morey responded with an apology through a tweet, saying: “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.”

Many other officials in the NBA have also expressed their opinions on social media. Joe Tsai, owner of the Brooklyn Nets, went to Facebook to comment on the issue: “What is the problem with people freely expressing their opinion? This freedom is an inherent American value and the NBA has been very progressive in allowing players and other constituents a platform to speak out on issues. The problem is, there are certain topics that are third-rail issues in certain countries, societies and communities. Supporting a separatist movement in a Chinese territory is one of those third-rail issues, not only for the Chinese government, but also for all citizens in China.”

So why is this such a big issue for the NBA? Where does freedom of speech end? 

Popularity for the NBA has skyrocketed in China ever since Yao Ming was the number one overall draft pick for the Houston Rockets in 2002. According to NBC, the Houston Rockets are the second most popular team in China.

Even after Yao Ming’s retirement, popularity for the NBA soared in this area.

This popularity brought in multiple companies who wanted to invest in the NBA. One such company, Tencent, is a streaming platform that was supposed to stream the Shanghai game for Chinese citizens, but because of this incident, the company temporarily suspended streams connected to the NBA. 

The deal that allowed these streams to happen has been reported to being worth at least $1.5 billion. Multiple other companies have also suspended their sponsorships to the NBA. 

Yao Ming, who is now the chairman for the Chinese Basketball Association, is supposed to meet with NBA’s commissioner, Adam Silver, to see if the partnership between the Chinese Basketball Association and the NBA can be fixed.

As an American citizen, freedom of speech is our right. Our founding fathers declared that freedom of speech is our inherent right, and as countries become democracies, this is a right that we believe all other nations should give to their citizens.

Even though free speech is a right, everything that is said may (and likely will) have consequences. Unfortunately, Morey was not the only one who had to deal with the consequences of his tweet. Even LeBron James encountered controversy with his response. 

A professional should always take heed in what they say, no matter if it is a private setting or not. 

Morey’s mind might have been in the right place, taking the side of Hong Kong, but he should have taken an account of those who he represents and the organization he works for. 

I was in the military for three years. Anything I said or did automatically represented the military. 

If I were to say what Morey said during my short military career, I would’ve at least been reprimanded. 

As for China’s response, I do not believe it was fair. Understanding their anger over the issue, they should have appealed to the NBA, warning them of what was said. If nothing was done, that's when I believe China would have had the right to take action on it.

I doubt this problem will be rectified any time soon. As long as violent clashes plague Hong Kong and China, the NBA will be under China’s watch. 

Tags: nba

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