Rocket's general manager's HK tweet angers China

Daryl-Morey-Tilman-Fertitta-Rockets

Fertitta told ESPN he felt he needed to distance the Rockets' organization from the tweet from his general manager.

The global kerfuffle began after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey posted a tweet Friday expressing support for the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

"I watched the Rockets for 21 years, but I'm still a Chinese person first and foremost", one social media user said. Morey tweeted in support of Hong Kong protesters Friday and has since apologized, but the damage has already been done. He sent a tweet that read: "Fight for Freedom". Tsai also claimed, "1.4 billion Chinese citizens stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China and the country's sovereignty over her homeland".

"Disgusting", he added. "They allow #China to punish a USA citizen for free speech in order to protect NBA's market access in China".

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta tweeted that Morey doesn't speak for the team, which he said was "not a political organisation".

On Sunday, the Chinese Basketball Association suspended cooperation with the Houston Rockets, as did Chinese sportswear brand Li-Ning.

NBA Chief Communications Officer Mike Bass said the outrage sparked by Morey's tweet was "regrettable". For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year.

"There should be no discrepancy on the statement issued last night", he said. We appreciate them as a fan base.

Basketball is a big deal in China.

James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball during a 111-106 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

I don't know Daryl personally.

Brooklyn Nets owner Joseph Tsai, the co-founder of Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba, took to Facebook to voice his displeasure at Morey's comments, saying "supporting a separatist movement in a Chinese territory is one of those third-rail issues" and that "the hurt that this incident has caused will take a long time to fix".

The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) is now considering severing ties with Houston over Morey's "incorrect comments".

Meanwhile, as of Monday searches for the Houston Rockets on Chinese e-commerce sites Taobao and Pinduoduo using Chinese characters yielded a "no results" message.

China's Yao Ming (L) of the Western Conference team defends against Allen Iverson (C) of the Eastern Conference as the West's Tracy McGrady (R) and the East's Shaquille O'Neal (far L) look on during the NBA All-Star game in Denver, Colorado on February 20, 2005.

Beijing now controls many aspects of the former British colony, where there's been 4 months of violent pro-democracy protests. "I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives", he posted.

Morey said that he acknowledges the "significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided". "Stand with Hong Kong" that was subsequently deleted.

NBA stars and some coaches have been outspoken in their criticism of US President Donald Trump, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has encouraged players to speak out on issues of concern, including questions of police brutality and gun violence.

Beto O'Rourke, a Democratic presidential hopeful also from Texas, described the NBA's reaction as "an embarrassment". The Nets owner is Joe Tsai, a co-founder of the Chinese retail giant Alibaba.

"I accept that it is also Chinese governments' and Chinese businesses' right to react to those words and, at least from my long-time experience in the National Basketball Association, it will take some time to heal some of these issues".

In the statement from the Chinese Consulate General Spokesperson, it is made clear that the Chinese government will keep the Rockets banned in the country until they see action taken to "correct the error".

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