US lawmakers criticize NBA over Hong Kong protest tweet

  • Several prominent US lawmakers have moved to criticize the NBA for distancing itself from Houston Rockets General manager Daryl Morey, after he expressed support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters. 
  • Morey faced a furious backlash from Chinese sponsors and NBA viewers over the tweet, which has since been deleted, and was forced into an apology.
  • Republican Senator Ted Cruz led the response from lawmakers, accusing the NBA of “shamefully retreating” in pursuit of money.
  • Chinese companies had announced they were cutting ties with the Houston Rockets over Morey’s tweet, leading the NBA to issue an apology. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers have criticized the National Basketball Association for failing to back Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey after he sent a tweet supporting Hong Kong protesters, and was met with a furious backlash by Chinese sponsors and officials. 

In a since deleted tweet, Morey expressed support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. But on Sunday Morey apologized for the message, after a backlash from Chinese fans and sponsors of the team. 

“I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event,” Morey said. “I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.”

Read more: An NBA executive is facing major backlash in China after tweeting support for the Hong Kong protests

Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey has faced a strong backlash from Chinese companies and fans after his tweet.
Pat Sullivan/AP


US lawmakers though have come out in support of Morey, and have criticized the NBA for its response to the controversy. 

“As a lifelong @HoustonRockets fan, I was proud to see @dmorey call out the Chinese Communist Party’s repressive treatment of protesters in Hong Kong,” Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican, said on Twitter.

“Now, in pursuit of $$, the @NBA is shamefully retreating.”

 

New Jersey Rep. Tom Malinowski accused the NBA of buckling to pressure from China’s authoritarian government. 

“And the #NBA, which (correctly) has no problem with players/employees criticizing our govt, is now apologizing for criticizing the Chinese gov’t. This is shameful and cannot stand,” Malinowski tweeted. 

Josh Hawley, a Republican senator from Missouri, characterized the response as a “moment of truth” for the NBA as China called for action against Morey.

Morey’s tweet Saturday in which he included an image reading: ‘Fight for freedom: Stand with Hong Kong,” led a Chinese sportswear company, a Chinese broadcaster and two Chinese banks to announce they were cutting ties with the Houston Rockets. 

The Chinese consulate in Houston even weighed in with a statement Sunday.

“We are deeply shocked by the erroneous comments on Hong Kong made by Mr. Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets,”said the statement.

“We have lodged representations and 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.”

Morey in a statement posted on Twitter Sunday expressed regret that his message had offended the team’s Chinese fans. 

 

The NBA had earlier apologized and sought to distance itself from Morey’s tweet.

NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the tweet had “deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable.”

Bass added that the league supports individuals “sharing their views on matters important to them.”

“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.”

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