By Eurohoops team/ email@example.com
Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey’s now-deleted tweet with an image that read ‘Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong” caused multiple reactions in the NBA world and may have an even bigger impact, especially when it comes to the economic side of things.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement saying the following;
I recognize our initial statement left people angered, confused or unclear on who we are or what the NBA stands for. Let me be more clear.
Over the last three decades, the NBA has developed a great affinity for the people of China. We have seen how basketball can be an important form of people-to-people exchange that deepens ties between the United States and China.
At the same time, we recognize that our two countries have different political systems and beliefs. And like many global brands, we bring our business to places with different political systems around the world.
But for those who question our motivation, this is about far more than growing our business.
Values of equality, respect, and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA — and will continue to do so. As an American-based basketball league operating globally, among our greatest contributions are these values of the game.
In fact, one of the enduring strengths of the NBA is our diversity — of views, backgrounds, ethnicities, genders and religions. Twenty-five percent of NBA players were born outside of the United States and our colleagues work in league offices around the world, including in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taipei.
With that diversity comes the belief that whatever our differences, we respect and value each other; and, what we have in common, including a belief in the power of sports to make a difference, remains our bedrock principle.
It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences.
However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way.
Basketball runs deep in the hearts and minds of our two peoples. At a time when divides between nations grow deeper and wider, we believe sports can be a unifying force that focuses on what we have in common as human beings rather than our differences.
Rockets owner Tim Ferlita commented that “Daryl Morey doesn’t speak for the Houston Rockets” and that the club’s presence in Tokyo is about the “promotion of the NBA in China.” Rockets superstar James Harden offered a public apology: “We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there,” Harden said. “For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love.”
In the meantime, Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai characterized Morey’s tweet as “damaging to the relationship with our fans in China.” Tsai, who is Taiwanese-born, also described the Hong Kong protesters as “a separatist movement.”
Tsai’s Nets were forced to cancel an NBA-organized community event in Shanghai, China, just hours before it’s planned launch on Tuesday (8/10). According to a report by South China Morning Post, the event was canceled by the government and not the NBA.
The effects of Morey’s tweet and its potential damage to the relationship with China fans were also mentioned by Silver. “There is no doubt, the economic impact is already clear,” Silver said, per ESPN. “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.”
The NBA has an enormous fanbase in China. Per the Washington Post, 640 million Chinese viewers consumed league content in 2017-2018. The NBA and Chinese company Tencent have a five-year extension worth $1.5 billion
A potential negative impact on revenues may affect the NBA substantially enough to also force changes to the 2020-2021 salary cap.
The NBA has planned for two games between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets to be played in Shanghai on Thursday and then Shenzen on Saturday.