In this file photo taken on July 18, 2012, Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, speaks during a press conference announcing the signing of Jeremy Lin at Toyota Center on July 19, 2012 in Houston, Texas. (BOB LEVEY / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)
HONG KONG - The National Basketball Association said on its official Chinese social media account that it was "extremely disappointed" by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's "inappropriate" tweet about Hong Kong, which "severely hurt the feelings of Chinese fans."
In a tweet late Friday, General Manager Daryl Morey appeared to support anti-government protests in Hong Kong. The message was then deleted and Morey later tweeted that he did not mean to cause offense.
"I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China," Morey tweeted early Monday from Japan, where Houston is playing this week. "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."
The team’s owner, Tilman Fertitta, said the Rockets aren’t a political organization and Morey didn’t speak for the team.
The NBA tried to limit the damage in a statement, saying Morey’s comments were “regrettable.”
“We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together,” the NBA said.
The Chinese Consulate General in Houston on Sunday condemned Morey for his "erroneous comments" on Hong Kong
But the damage was done. The Chinese Consulate General in Houston on Sunday condemned Morey for his "erroneous comments" on Hong Kong.
"We are deeply shocked by the erroneous comments on Hong Kong made by Mr. Daryl Morey," said the spokesperson for the consulate in a statement.
"We have ... expressed strong dissatisfaction with the Houston Rockets, and urged the latter to correct the error and take immediate concrete measures to eliminate the adverse impact," it said.
The statement added that ending violence and restoring order "has become the widest common consensus and the strongest appeal of all social sectors in Hong Kong."
"Anybody with a conscience would support the efforts made by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to safeguard Hong Kong's social stability," it said.
Meanwhile, China's official basketball association said it would suspend exchanges and cooperation with Rockets following Morey's tweet.
The Chinese Basketball Association, chaired by Yao Ming, said on Sunday on its Weibo account that Morey had made "improper remarks regarding Hong Kong" to which it expressed its "strong opposition."
Chinese sportswear maker Li Ning and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Credit Card Center have announced to suspend cooperation with the Rockets.
Other criticism came from Tencent, a major media partner of the NBA in China with a streaming deal that is worth US$1.5 billion over the next five years, and Chinese state television — both of which said they would not be showing Rockets games.
The timing of this is particularly awkward for the NBA, whose players have often been outspoken on social issues in the United States.
China has teams in the US playing preseason games this week, the Rockets are about to play two games in Japan and the Los Angeles Lakers — with one of the biggest global sports stars in LeBron James — and Brooklyn Nets set to play Thursday in Shanghai and Saturday in Shenzhen, China.
Speaking at a practice in Tokyo on Monday, Rockets' star James Harden was contrite as he spoke standing with teammate Russell Westbrook.
"We apologize. You know, we love China, we love playing there. For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love. We appreciate them as a fan base. We love everything there about them and we appreciate the support that they give us individually and as organization."
HONG KONG NEWS