NBA Rumor: Morey's Hong Kong Tweet

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While other news has dominated sports headlines since the impasse began in 2019, the Chinese government continues to quietly keep the NBA off the air in the world’s largest basketball market. The TV exile began in October 2019 when then-Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrators facing a violent crackdown by mainland China’s authoritarian communist government.

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It’s unclear when the NBA will be back on Chinese televisions. The league declined to comment on its relationship with the Chinese broadcasters. The 76ers also declined to comment about the situation or say whether potential reaction from China was a discussion topic when Morey was hired. Privately-owned Tencent, which must abide by government mandates and has streamed the NBA since 2009, issued a brief statement: “We are a long-standing partner of the NBA and are committed to catering to the interests of the NBA fan base in China.”

Jared Dudley: Adam Silver comes to China, literally sweating, to help cool things off for us. He has to negotiate his way in just to be able to see us and ensure our safe passage out of there. We just wanted to play our games and get the hell out. So when LeBron criticizes Daryl Morey for that tweet, everyone acts like he’s standing against free speech, but what he’s really saying is: You tweet something like that from the comfort of your own home, while actual players in your league are stranded in China, that’s not cool. You need to think for a minute about what the impact of that is on other people. Everyone’s hating on Bron, talking about how disappointed they are in him, but we see where he’s coming from.

“I don’t want to get in a word or sentence feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke,” James said at the time. “And so many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually.” What James did not know was that Morey had befriended a number of Hong Kong residents while attending business school and had intimate knowledge of the challenges they faced living in a semi-autonomous region. His decision to tweet his support was neither rash nor uninformed, but a conscious effort to express his solidarity for people he knew well.

New Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey shared concern that his career in the NBA might have been over after sharing a post on social media that expressed support for a protest group in Hong Kong. “In the last 12 months, I had moments where I thought I might never work in the NBA again, for reasons I was willing to go down for,” Morey told ESPN while discussing his new role with the 76ers. “But I love working, I love what I do, and I didn’t want that to happen.”

Even so, Morey never anticipated the vitriol his tweet generated. At one point, he said, based on intel provided to him, Morey had grave concerns regarding the safety of his wife and two children. “I was actually really, really worried about that,” Morey said. He declined to elaborate on the specific threats. “Luckily I had [access to] different people who were assisting me with that and giving me advice on how to handle it,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ve been able to get where we have some level of safety. “But I was extremely concerned. You don’t want the second-most powerful government on Earth mad at you, if you can avoid it. In this case, I couldn’t.”

Adam Silver: But I guess that people could say, “Well, it’s inconsistent with our values.” And I’d say, “Do you make decisions based on one issue?” I still believe that by engaging with people in China, by exporting what is a piece of Americana through the NBA, that we are supporting our fundamental values and that the alternative of not doing it would not improve things. Now, I think there’s been a misinterpretation around the Daryl Morey tweet, and it confuses me in terms of people’s reactions.* Our response was “No, we support freedom of expression.” That is a bedrock American principle, and that if they choose to not air our games as a result of that tweet, we accept the consequences. Hopefully, the Chinese will see that.

Adam Silver: But I guess that people could say, “Well, it’s inconsistent with our values.” And I’d say, “Do you make decisions based on one issue?” I still believe that by engaging with people in China, by exporting what is a piece of Americana through the NBA, that we are supporting our fundamental values and that the alternative of not doing it would not improve things. Now, I think there’s been a misinterpretation around the Daryl Morey tweet, and it confuses me in terms of people’s reactions.* Our response was “No, we support freedom of expression.” That is a bedrock American principle, and that if they choose to not air our games as a result of that tweet, we accept the consequences. Hopefully, the Chinese will see that. And it’s no surprise: We have a different system, and that’s what we believe in. It’s two governments having disagreements.

League's revenues dropped 10% due to pandemic

The NBA’s revenues dropped 10% to $8.3 billion during the 2019-20 season amid losses due to the pandemic, according to financial numbers shared with teams and obtained by ESPN. The balance of the finances included an $800 million loss in gate receipts and a $400 million loss in sponsorships and merchandise, sources said. The NBA’s losses included $200 million in deemed “net negative impact” from a months-long splintering of a partnership with China in the aftermath of the Daryl Morey tweet promoting Hong Kong freedom a year ago, sources said.

Tim MacMahon on Daryl Morey stepping down: Well, this was not Tilman Fertitta his decision. This was initiated by Daryl Morey and they came to an agreement. You know, there was obviously speculation around the league since the freedom for Hong Kong tweet that Daryl Morey was going to be gone. And that situation, it did not push Tilman Fertitta to make this decision because again, this was not Tillman pushing out Daryl Morey, but Darrell saying hey, I want to step away and then come into an agreement. I do think talking to some people with Rockets that just the kind of the different sort of scrutiny that came with that and and the… I don’t know if guilt is the right word or pressure that that came with costing not just Tilman Fertitta dozens of millions of dollars, but the NBA as a whole hundreds of millions of dollars… I think that weighed on Daryl

Florida senator Rick Scott is not thrilled that the 2020 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat is still being broadcasted in China. In a tweet on Friday, the 67-year-old Republican politician aired his disgust for the league’s decision to still side with China despite their government’s supposed numerous human rights violations. “Tonight’s game demonstrates the NBA’s refusal to stand for human rights and instead choose to please the Communist Party of China for profits. This is shameful,” he wrote.

Candace Buckner: With the NBA addressing severed ties w/ a Chinese bkb camp, I wanted to share this from Steve Kerr I’m working on a piece abt coaches & their role in speaking up & Kerr, usually outspoken, admitted he didn’t like his comments re: China last yr I think this is honest reflection

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., slammed the NBA for pulling custom gear from its online store following the backlash the league received for blocking “Free Hong Kong” to be printed on its apparel. On Monday, the NBA was swept into controversy after a viral video showed that the online store could not process orders that used the text “FreeHongKong.” Hours later, the store’s operator Fanatics reversed what it suggested was a technical error that prompted the phrase to be “inadvertently prohibited.”

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., suggested Monday he would support a subpoena of NBA commissioner Adam Silver to investigate the league’s relationship with China. Hawley expressed concern that the NBA is allowing players to wear preapproved social justice cause messages on their jerseys for causes such as Black Lives Matter but does not allow for messages relating to China or supporting law enforcement. He called a Senate Judiciary committee subpoena of Silver “a great idea.”
1 year ago via ESPN

U.S. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, in a letter to NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Friday, wrote that the league’s policy on social injustice messages “appears to stop at the edge of your corporate sponsors’ sensibilities,” especially when it comes to matters involving China and support of the United States military and law enforcement personnel. In the letter, Hawley said Silver has been “deepening the NBA’s ties to the CCP [Chinese Communist Party]” since Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet in support of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong in October.

Daryl Morey not in the hot seat for Hong Kong tweet

The topic of the Hong Kong tweet has come up again lately. The President brought it up. It came up on your CNBC interview. What would you want people to know about your position about that issue? Tilman Fertitta: “The tweet was seven words. There was nothing wrong with the tweet. That’s why one hour later I told ESPN when I was asked ‘Are you going to get rid of Daryl Morey,’ I was like, ‘Are you crazy? Why would I get rid of Daryl for that tweet?’ I think Daryl’s one of the best general managers in the league. Plus, we truly enjoy working with each other. To this day, we plan on working with each other and I expect Daryl to be here for years to come.”


The association of professional teams in the US announced on Tuesday its appointment of Michael Ma Xiaofei as the new CEO for the NBA’s China branch, effective in June. Ma would be the first mainland native boss for the NBA’s Beijing office since it was established in 2008. The new executive is the son of Ma Guoli, one of the founding figures of China Central Television’s (CCTV) sports channel, who helped break the ice and introduce NBA live games to CCTV in the 1990s. The new appointment no doubt reflects NBA’s belief that Ma can get the league out of the situation, given his background, Su Qun, one of the best-known basketball commentators in China and editor-in-chief of the Basketball Pioneer newspaper, told the Global Times.

If the Morey incident is properly handled, the NBA, in the long run, could demonstrate that China welcomes foreign businesses to invest and make money in the country, as long as they respect the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Su said. The appointment came a day after CCTV issued a solemn statement on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo, denying any plan to resume airing NBA games. CCTV has not broadcast any NBA games since October 2019. Chinese netizens commented on the NBA official reshuffle, and many said they could not care less about the US league, unless Morey is punished for his misbehavior. “The season is suspended due to the COVID-19 anyway, and I’m OK to continue living without the NBA,” wrote a fan on Hupu.com, a major sports website in China. “We did not and will not forget what he has done. When the NBA and Morey own their mistakes, I will consider welcoming the league back,” wrote another.

Chinese TV still not airing NBA games

In its first statement on the matter in months, China’s CCTV said Tuesday it has no intention of resuming the airing of NBA games as the relationship between the sides remains icy in the wake of Daryl Morey’s Hong Kong tweet last fall. The NBA on Monday named Michael Ma as the new CEO of NBA China. Ma comes from an influential Chinese media family — his father, Ma Guoli, is regarded as the father of CCTV Sports, having run it for 16 years.

On Tuesday, Ma Guoli resigned his position as an adviser to the Chinese Basketball Association. Michael Ma has a long background with the NBA, previously working for the league for 13 years in various capacities. He had been the CEO of Endeavor China. The relationship between the league and China was disrupted after Morey, the Houston Rockets general manager, tweeted in support of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong on Oct. 4. Morey later deleted his tweet, an image that read “Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong,” and clarified the intent in two subsequent tweets.

OK, China. It’s been a minute, but to recap, Morey, the Houston Rockets’ GM, sent a tweet in October in support of Hong Kong protestors just as the Lakers and Nets were getting set to play exhibition games in China. The Chinese government was very upset, and there was significant backlash. The NBA is still not on government-run TV there, and the financial loss to the league from ties being severed by Chinese business partners is substantial. For the first time Saturday, Silver kind of quantified the loss. He said the league’s reduced salary cap for next season, from $116 million down to $115 million, was due in part to losses in China. 11. “I think that the magnitude of the loss will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” Silver said. “Certainly, probably less than $400 million, maybe even less than that. It’s substantial. I don’t want to run from that. We were taken off the air in China for a period of time, and it caused our many business partners in China to feel it was, therefore, inappropriate to have ongoing relationships with us. But I don’t have any sense that there’s any permanent damage to our business there, and as I’ve said before, we accept the consequences of our system and our values. It’s not a position any business wants to be in, but those are the results.” If it’s “probably” less than $400 million, it’s safe to say the controversy cost the NBA $300 million anyway.

This, too, is notable. Tencent, the Chinese streaming network, after initially stopping its coverage, has been showing up to three games a night. China’s state-run television network, China Central Television, canceled its broadcasts of the preseason games between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Nets and several other related league events in the aftermath of Morey’s tweet. Silver, at a live event soon after, said the Chinese government had demanded that Morey be fired — but he immediately said no. The N.B.A. has not been back on CCTV since.

This, too, is notable. Tencent, the Chinese streaming network, after initially stopping its coverage, has been showing up to three games a night. China’s state-run television network, China Central Television, canceled its broadcasts of the preseason games between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Nets and several other related league events in the aftermath of Morey’s tweet. Silver, at a live event soon after, said the Chinese government had demanded that Morey be fired — but he immediately said no. The N.B.A. has not been back on CCTV since.

“I believe that there are strains of separatism, because they don’t want to have anything to do with China,” Tsai says in defense of his letter. “They are very anti-China, burning the Chinese flag, beating up people who speak Mandarin, vandalizing Chinese-owned shops.” In his estimation, although the protests may have begun as a peaceful effort to strengthen the “two systems” part of the handover agreement, they’ve since morphed into a violent attempt to undermine the “one country” part. “People should think very seriously about saying that it’s not a separatist movement,” he says. “I think they should look at the facts.”

Whenever the controversy ends, the question is whether the Nets, with their Chinese owner, will supplant the Rockets as China’s team, a position Houston held from the time they drafted Yao Ming in 2002 till last fall’s controversy. Tsai doesn’t think it’s a big deal. Most of the China revenue, along with most NBA revenue in general, is shared by all 30 teams. “If the Nets are very well-known in China, maybe we will get a little bit more sponsorship revenue, maybe some Chinese company will have signs here instead of Qatar Airways,” he told Boudway, pointing to ads ringing the rafters at Barclays. “But that doesn’t really move the needle. What’s important is if the NBA is very popular in China.”

In an interview with Ian Eagle that aired prior to the Nets – 76ers game, Joe Tsai said the NBA and China are working to rebuild their relationship, referring to last fall’s controversy as “a short-term setback” in a four decade-long affiliation. In the YES interview. Tsai noted the popularity of hoops in China and the importance of international basketball to the NBA’s future. “Well, the NBA is global; it’s a global sport. Basketball is played everywhere in the world, and in China there’s over 300 million people that play basketball, that watch NBA games. Also let’s put this thing in a historical perspective; the NBA has been in China for 40 years.

“So when you look at these 40 years — all the history of the NBA in China, all the goodwill the NBA has built up — you have to take a long-term perspective. Now, we sort of have a short-term setback. Both sides are working to get our relationship back on track. The key thing is we need be broadcast on TV back in China. “There’s talk NBA ratings are kind of down for various reasons. But we don’t want to see ratings go down globally. We need the NBA games to be back on TV in China.”

There’s still great uncertainty about the effects on league business, from the impact on salary-cap projections to the probability that the NBA can fully restore its relationships with Chinese broadcasters and corporate partners. Does the NBA have a shot of returning in the foreseeable future to China, where it has played preseason games in every non-lockout season since 2007? No team has felt the brunt of the fallout more than the Rockets. League sources say the franchise has lost more than $7 million in revenue this season from cancelled Chinese sponsorship agreements and nearly $20 million overall when terminated multiyear deals are calculated.

Just a year ago, Tencent Holdings Ltd. locked up one of the most coveted media franchises in the country when it paid $1.5 billion for five years of exclusive streaming rights to National Basketball Association games. A single tweet changed all that. Now, the Chinese social media giant may have to suspend airing those matchups — which drew half a billion viewers last year — after Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey triggered a media blackout in China by tweeting support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. That sums up a disappointing 2019 for a company that looked like it was back on track after a horrendous 2018.

Regarding the firestorm that Rockets GM Daryl Morey ignited last month with a tweet that supported Hong Kong protesters, angering Chinese officials while NBA teams were visiting the country, Stern said; “I think that Adam did a very great and courageous job of shepherding the teams through that situation and maintaining the even keel that he’s known for and stepping up for American values. “It pains me that people criticized him and the NBA, because he very forthrightly stood up for Daryl Morey and he expressed regret that those remarks offended people or pained people. But I understood what he was saying.

“The idea that people felt comfortable saying after the fact, ‘Well, the NBA is just trying to sell stuff.’ Well, yeah, and trade negotiations with China involving the U.S. involves America trying to sell stuff to China – $50 billion of pork bellies and soybeans and agricultural products. “So should we feel guilty the NBA, as part of a very curated relationship with China, might or might not profit from television, and a couple of games, and Nike apparel sales? It’s interesting to me. Nike: no. But pork bellies: yes.”

For National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts, the size and scope of the China saga provided a wake-up call: Something needs to change, or NBA players will continue to find themselves embroiled in international incidents. “We don’t have the luxury of confining ourselves to the four corners of the United States,” Roberts told The Washington Post in a phone interview. “As the game is expanding [globally] and the union is interested in having a greater impact outside the U.S., I need to, and the players need to, be more aware of the world around us. [The China standoff] were difficult days, and the problem hasn’t gone away. We need to address it as a union and as a sport. We’ve got to be a little bit more intentional about how we navigate the world given what happened this past [month].”

Roberts admitted that the union has not done enough to help prepare players before their international travels, and that it is the NBPA’s responsibility to take proactive steps to prevent its members from doing unintentional harm to their reputations and brands. “For many of the players that went over there, it was their first trip to China,” Roberts said. “Many had no idea what was going on in Hong Kong. Most Americans, let alone most basketball players, are not aware of the politics that have been of concern in China. If we’re going to be sending our guys all over the globe, then we have to make sure they’re armed with the knowledge of where they are going and what’s happening in the locales they’re visiting in and playing in.

Nearly a month later, an analysis of Twitter data suggests that much of the online conversation that erupted in the wake of the scandal, far from being genuine criticism from concerned citizens, was pro-China propaganda originating from social-media bots and trolls on the mainland. To arrive at this conclusion, The Economist analysed more than 419,000 tweets about the controversy posted by 75,000 Twitter accounts that commented on it in the week after Mr Morey’s original tweet. Which countries the tweets came from cannot be asserted with certainty. Twitter is blocked in China. But the ban is widely circumvented with virtual private networks (VPNs), which allow users to surf the web through a foreign server.

Some of the accounts examined had been opened after Mr Morey’s tweet, whereas others predated it. Using a machine-learning algorithm developed by researchers at the Indiana University Network Science Institute, each Twitter account in our sample was categorised as a real user or a suspected bot or troll based on 1,200 characteristics. These include the account’s friends and followers, social network, activity patterns, language and the sentiments of their posts.

The results show that nearly a quarter of the accounts tweeting about the NBA in the days after the incident had a higher than 50% chance of being bots or trolls. Many of these “suspect” accounts were created soon after Mr Morey’s tweet. Indeed, in the following week, the number of new suspect accounts increased by 400% over the previous seven days. In that earlier week, about 47% of the newly-created accounts in our sample were suspected of malicious activity by the machine-learning algorithm. After the tweet, this proportion rose to 60%.

Three months before his retweet heard ’round the world, Morey pulled off one of the summer’s many stunners by landing the former MVP in Westbrook, who has four seasons and $171.1 million combined left on his deal (with a player option for 2022-23). […] The end result, as he discussed with The Athletic after declining to address the NBA’s China controversy, came after a five-day stretch of negotiating while at summer league in Las Vegas that Morey describes as the “most intense” of any deal he has ever done. Considering the reputation he has earned in these past 12 years, that’s no small statement.

Griffin was asked whether he had an opinion on the situation and he conceded that he wouldn’t comment on the matter because he didn’t know too much about U.S. politics, let alone geopolitical issues. “To be honest … at the risk of sounding ignorant, there’s so many things in our government that I don’t completely understand, so I don’t pretend to know what’s happening over there,” Griffin said. “My only hope is that no one gets hurt.”

In his first public comments since the interview with ESPN, Fertitta, whose team opens the season on Thursday night against Milwaukee, agreed to provide written answers to questions through a spokeswoman. He said he “never considered firing or punishing Daryl” in the wake of Morey’s Twitter post. Fertitta also said that he needed to initially distance the Rockets from Morey because, “I felt it was important to make the distinction between Daryl speaking as a private citizen and Daryl as a representative of the Houston Rockets.”

Barkley added: “Daryl Morey, who I like, he can say whatever he wants to. But there are consequences. I don’t understand why these holier-than-thou politicians, if they’re so worried about China, why don’t they stop all transactions with China? “President Trump has been talking about and arguing with tariffs for China for the last two years,” Barkley continued. “I think it’s unfair for them to do all their business in China and just because this thing happens try to make the NBA and our players look bad. All American companies do business in China. Period.”

A group of 30 fans at the Houston Rockets’ season opener against Milwaukee held signs and wore shirts in support of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong on Thursday night. Houston general manager Daryl Morey angered the Chinese government with a since-deleted tweet in support of the protesters earlier this month. Tuesday’s opening-night games were not televised in China in the wake of Morey’s tweet, which caused tension between the NBA and Chinese officials.

But Shaquille O’Neal – an all-time great player, prominent voice on NBA telecasts and (maybe most relevantly here) minority owner of the Sacramento Kings – made himself clear. O’Neal on TNT: “We as American people, we do a lot of business in China. And they know and understand our values. And we understand their values. And one of our best values here in America is free speech. We’re allowed to say what we want to say, and we’re allowed to speak up about injustices, and that’s just how it goes. And if people don’t understand that, that’s something that they have to deal with. But I just think it was unfortunate for both parties. And then you’ve got people speaking when they don’t know what they’re talking about. But Daryl Morey was right. Whenever you see something wrong going on anywhere in the world, you should have the right to say, “That’s not right,” and that’s what he did. But again, when it comes to business sometimes you have to tiptoe around things.”

Mark Cuban, billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, says pressure from China to silence NBA players and managers hasn’t changed anything at the basketball league “What influence? What did they do that caused us to change any behavior?” he asked during a panel discussion at the Wall Street Journal’s Tech Live conference in Laguna Beach, Cali., on Monday. “There’s just no reason to get in the domestic policy of foreign countries and it’s not like any of them have made us change out behavior at the NBA.”

During TNT’s pre-game show on opening night of the NBA season Tuesday, Shaquille O’Neal strongly defended Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who caused an international firestorm earlier this month by tweeting a pro-Democracy message about protesters in Hong Kong. “As American people, we do a lot of business in China,” O’Neal said. “And they know and understand our values and we understand their values. And one of our best values in America is free speech. We’re allowed to say what we want to say and we’re allowed to speak up on injustices, and that’s just how it goes.”

If LaVine was worthy of that deal, someone who has been trying to rebuild the Kings was worthy of a lucrative deal, too. Hield wanted his loyalty rewarded and to know the Kings saw him as a key part of their future. A source with knowledge of Hield’s thinking said there were other cursory factors as well. For one, the unexpected China factor — how much money will they lose in the wake of Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting the protestors in Hong Kong? — is looming large for everyone in the NBA at the moment.

James’ response to Morey’s tweet wasn’t well received, with him toeing the NBA line and calling it “misinformed,” and later clarifying that he was upset by the timing of Morey’s tweet. But in an appearance on ESPN’s “Get Up” on Monday morning, Silver defended James’ response, as well as the decision many players have made to stay silent on the issue. Via Bleacher Report: “I think that these players, I mean, take LeBron who has an incredible track record of doing things that have changed people’s lives in the United States to be asked to comment on a difficult foreign issue is, I think, again there’s free expression and he should say how he feels. But, freedom of speech also means the freedom not to speak. And I’ve often said to players about issues here at home: If it’s something you don’t know about and you don’t feel comfortable responding, that’s OK as well. So, it’s been no-win for a lot of those players, so I’m very sympathetic.”

“If you want to make China a significant part of your business, you have to understand that there are political risks involved,” said a sports industry source this week with extensive history negotiating deals with China. “You don’t see movies about Tibet much anymore. You don’t see Chinese as villains. Look at ‘The Martian’; it was the Chinese coming to the rescue. Hollywood has learned – not without some criticism – and they have accepted. China is about to become the biggest box office in the world.”

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