China Denies Hand in NBA's Daryl Morey Firing Over Hong Kong Tweets

Protesters hang a banner during a gathering in support of NBA's Houston Rockets' team general manager Daryl Morey, who sent a tweet backing the pro-democracy movement, in Hong Kong, China, October 15, 2019. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
October 18, 2019 Topic: Politics Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: ChinaHong KongNBASportsFreedom Of Speech

China Denies Hand in NBA's Daryl Morey Firing Over Hong Kong Tweets

The sports league doth protest too much.

China said Friday that it never told the Houston Rockets to fire its general manager over his pro-Hong Kong tweets that ignited weeks of criticism against the NBA.

Comments from China’s foreign ministry came just one day after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said China requested Daryl Morey be fired for his quickly deleted tweets, according to the Associated Press.

“The Chinese government never posed this requirement,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Friday, AP reported.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry responded to erroneous comments on #HongKong made by Houston Rockets general manager and remarks made by #NBA commissioner, stressing that lacking knowledge of the minds and hearts of the Chinese people will not work.

— China News 中国新闻网 (@Echinanews) October 8, 2019

The foreign ministry said earlier in October, however, that the NBA “knows better than anyone else” how to resolve the conflict between the association and China but did not offer any specifics, according to AP.

Silver said Thursday during an appearance at the Time 100 Health Summit in New York that the Chinese government asked him to fire Morey.

“I felt we had made enormous progress in terms of building cultural exchanges with the Chinese people,” he said. “Again, I have regret that much of that was lost. And I’m not even sure where we’ll go from here.”

“Obviously, we made clear that we were being asked to fire him by the Chinese government, by the parties we dealt with, government and business,” Silver continued. “We said, ‘There’s no chance that’s happening. There’s no chance we’ll even discipline him.'”

China canceled the broadcasting of two NBA games between the Nets and the Lakers after Morey’s tweets caught media attention.

The NBA’s crisis in China has already cost the league “substantial” losses

— Bloomberg (@business) October 17, 2019

“We’re strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver’s claim to support Morey’s right to freedom of expression,” Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said at the time, according to ESPN.

Additionally, 11 of the NBA’s Chinese partners have since suspended relationships with the league.

NBA star Lebron James reportedly pressured the NBA to punish Morey, arguing that if an NBA player had tweeted something similar that cost the league money, said player would have been punished, ESPNs Dave McMenamin said.

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Image: Reuters.