Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted an image that read “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong” on Friday night, but deleted it after the team’s owner, billionaire Tilman Fertitta, publicly clarified that Morey was “NOT” speaking for the Rockets and that the organization was “NOT” political.
Since June, protestors in Hong Kong have demonstrated against a proposed law allowing extradition to mainland China, but the scope of the protest has expanded to include calls for universal suffrage and investigations into police abuse. Morey’s innocent endorsement of civil liberties may have put the NBA in an awkward place: The league has spent over a decade cultivating business and media relationships in China in a campaign to make basketball the country’s most popular sport, raking in lots of money along the way. The Rockets, one of the most beloved NBA teams in China, have been central to this effort. Last week, the Rockets hosted the Shanghai Sharks for a preseason game. (They’ll also play two preseason games against the Toronto Raptors in Japan on Tuesday and Thursday, which Fertitta references in his tweet.)
“I have the best general manager in the league,” Fertitta told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “Everything is fine with Daryl and me. We got a huge backlash, and I wanted to make clear that [the organization] has no [political] position. We’re here to play basketball and not to offend anybody.” Hear that, Rockets? Get back to your uncontroversial brand of basketball. Shoo!
Fertitta did not say whether he speaks for the Houston Rockets when he calls the Bushes the most “extraordinary political family” in American history, says Donald Trump is doing “a great job,” harps about having to give his employees healthcare, harps again about the minimum wage, says socialism “scares the hell” out of him, swings by CNBC to burble on about businesses being over-regulated and hosts luncheons to keep the Senate’s Republican majority.