SWITZERLAND, OCTOBER 10 – Five days after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey deleted his now famous tweet with the words “stand with Hong Kong,” the most popular sports league in the most populous country in the world is getting an earful from all directions.
Although Morey backtracked from supporting the Hong Kong protesters and Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta distanced the team from his post, the league has become toxic in China — at least for now.After an initial league statement was criticized for being too beholden to the Chinese authorities, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver defended Morey’s right to send the tweet in a statement Tuesday in Tokyo.
He said that the league would not pursue profits over principles.But the timing of this conflict could not be worse for the NBA, with two highly anticipated preseason games between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets scheduled for Thursday and Saturday in China.
Two NBA developmental games have already been canceled, as well as a fan appreciation night, with mounting speculation that the showcase games may also be called off.At the heart of this dispute lies an issue of pride from both sides, said Gregory Stoller, a senior lecturer of strategy and innovation at Boston University’s business school, who has been consulting in China for 15 years.
“The Chinese are the most patriotic nation on the earth, and the second most patriotic by a nose has to be the United States,” Stoller told CNN Sport.”The Chinese are really proud of their culture and proud of everything that they stand for. If you want to interact with that country, then you have to respect that,” he added.
“Most countries, including China, would want an apology; they want people to respect their relationship.”It’s sort of like being in a long-term marriage and realizing that you’re going to have some bumps in the road,” he added, “but I’m 100% certain that the ship will be righted.”Not helping matters for the NBA is the current trade friction between Washington and China. “It’s a very fragile time for US-China relations across the board,” Stoller said.
On Monday, the US placed 28 Chinese companies on a blacklist for allegedly facilitating human rights violations. Chinese smartphone giant Huawei was blacklisted earlier this year, while Washington has placed billions of dollars of tariffs on Chinese goods since 2018.