(Reuters) - The National Basketball Association (NBA) took flak on Monday for its response to a tweet by a Houston Rockets official supporting Hong Kong protests for democracy.
Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey apologized on Monday for the tweet, which he quickly deleted over the weekend, but his support for the demonstrations in the Chinese-ruled city angered China’s government and others in the world’s No. 2 economy.
In a statement, the NBA said it recognized that the views expressed by Morey had “deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable.” A Chinese-language version issued by the league appeared to go further, saying the NBA was “extremely disappointed” in Morey’s “inappropriate remarks.”
Here is some of the reaction from both sides of the flap on Monday and Sunday:
- “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. Now, in pursuit of $$, the @NBA is shamefully retreating.” - Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, whose state of Texas includes Houston, on Twitter.
- “Um, yeah, we apologize, you know. You know, we love China, we love playing there. ... They show us the most support and love, so, you know, we appreciate them as a fan base, and we love everything, you know, they’re about and we appreciate the support they give us, individually and as an organization, so ... we love you.” - Houston Rockets guard James Harden, in a Reuters TV interview.
- “I watched the Rockets for 21 years, but I’m still a Chinese person first and foremost.” - one social media user.
- “And the #NBA, which (correctly) has no problem with players/employees criticizing our gov’t, is now apologising for criticizing the Chinese gov’t. This is shameful and cannot stand.” - Democratic U.S. Representative Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, on Twitter, referring to the league’s policy of not imposing fines for NBA players protesting deadly police shootings in the United States.
- “The one thing that is terribly misunderstood, and often ignored, by the western press and those critical of China, is that 1.4 billion Chinese citizens stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China and the country’s sovereignty over her homeland. This issue is non-negotiable. ... I don’t know Daryl personally. I am sure he’s a fine NBA general manager, and I will take at face value his subsequent apology that he was not as well informed as he should have been. But the hurt this incident has caused will take a long time to repair.” - Joseph Tsai, owner of the Brooklyn Nets and co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, on his personal Facebook page.
- Morey “has the right to express his values, and Chinese fans of the Houston Rockets have the right to abandon this team. If the Rockets want to keep its Chinese market, the team need to avoid offending Chinese public.” - Hu Xijin, editor of the state-controlled Global Times newspaper, in a tweet.
- “Chinese govt has a million people locked in concentration camps & is trying to brutally repress Hong Kong demonstrators - and NBA wants to ‘bridge cultural divides’? Cultural divides?” - Republican U.S. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, referring to allegations of human rights abuses in China.
- “We want to express our indignation and strong condemnation. We have already stopped our cooperation with the Houston Rockets, and continue to urge them to give a clear answer on this matter.” - Chinese sportswear brand Li-Ning, on the Twitter-like Weibo platform.
- “China regulating speech in America is dangerous & is actually happening via @NBA” - Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, in a tweet.
- “SPD Bank Credit Card Center expresses strong protest and opposition to the wrong remarks made by Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey.” - statement on the Chinese bank’s Weibo account in which it said it had suspended related marketing activities and publicity.
Compiled by Jonathan Oatis; Editing by Paul Simao