By Dan Palmer |
The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) has suspended its relationship with Houston Rockets after the NBA giant’s general manager offered his support to Hong Kong’s protesters.
Daryl Morey tweeted an image which included the words “Fight for freedom, fight for Hong Kong” which has angered many Chinese.
As well as the CBA, major broadcasters and sponsors have also halted their involvement with the Rockets.
It comes after months of anti-Government demonstrations in Hong Kong, the former British territory which is now a special administrative region of China.
Protesters have repeatedly clashed with police and the situation has turned increasingly violent and ugly.
Morey has since back-tracked on his tweet and the NBA has described his post as “regrettable”.
However, this reaction has also drawn criticism with some claiming it is putting the money from the sport’s key Chinese market above the plight of the protesters.
The CBA is chaired by China’s most famous player Yao Ming, who played for the Rockets between 2002 and 2011.
His involvement with the club means Houston are one of the most popular teams in China.
Sportswear company Li-Ning followed the CBA’s stance, as did Tencent which streams matches online.
The club’s sponsor in China, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, was another to suspend their involvement.
Broadcaster CCTV 5 said it would no longer show Houston Rockets matches on television.
“The Chinese Basketball Association strongly disagrees with the improper remarks by Daryl Morey, and has decided to suspend exchanges and cooperation with the team,” the CBA said.
The NBA added that the post had “deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable”.
Morey added: “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.”
In 2008, NBA China was launched to manage the sport in the country.
NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum told Forbes last year that revenue from the organisation is worth more than $4 billion (£3.2 billion/€3.6 billion).
“It’s clear that the NBA is more interested in money than human rights,” said Florida’s Republican Senator Rick Scott on Twitter.
“The NBA is kowtowing to Beijing to protect their bottom line and disavowing those with the temerity to #standwithHongKong.
Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is running for the 2020 Presidential nomination, said the NBA response was “an embarrassment”.
“The only thing the NBA should be apologising for is their blatant prioritisation of profits over human rights,” he said.
The Hong Kong protests began in reaction to a proposed extradition law which critics said could have led to people being sent to China.
This, it is claimed, would have undermined the autonomy of the city.
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.