Chinese businesses suspend ties with Rockets after GM shows support for Hong Kong protests
The general manager of the NBA Houston Rockets team, Daryl Morey has embroiled himself into trouble due to his tweet on last Friday supporting Hong Kong's protests. Some Chinese companies stated their actions even before officials.
Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Credit Card Center was the first to speak out, saying on Sunday that it "opposes and protests against" Morey's "erroneous" remarks and has suspended all marketing and publicity activities related to the Rockets.
Following the bank, sports brand Li Ning denounced the post and said it had stopped all forms of cooperation with the Rockets. Meanwhile, Shanghai Jiayin Finance Technology notified the Rockets that all partnerships between the two sides have been halted.
Tencent Sports, which signed a five-year, 1.5-billion-U.S.-dollar deal with the NBA in July, announced that all live streaming and news reporting of the Rockets will be suspended. It also gave customers, who bought a subscription to watch the Rockets games online, a chance to opt for another team.
Starbuck's China rival Luckin Coffee and smartphone maker Vivo also announced they would suspend cooperation with the NBA on Tuesday.
A small tweet can bring big trouble
Morey's tweet, "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong," was quickly deleted last Friday, but not before it generated huge controversy in China. China's consulate general in Houston urged the team to "clarify and immediately correct the mistakes" in a statement last Sunday. Beijing repeatedly said that some protesters in Hong Kong were mobs and rioters, instead of the so-called "peaceful pro-democracy protesters" described by the Western media.
But, the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement Tuesday on how NBA will not "put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues," concerning Morey's improper remarks.
On the same day, the China Central Television (CCTV) Sports channel of China Media Group (CMG) announced that it will suspend the NBA broadcasting because Silver supported improper remarks. Before that, the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) had already announced the termination of cooperation with Houston Rockets.
Basketball is one of the most popular sports in China. Here are some facts and figures showing how vital China and its 500-million-fan base is to the NBA:
The NBA has had a presence in China for almost three decades. It now has relationships with a number of television and digital media outlets throughout China, including a long-standing partnership with CCTV.
The Houston Rockets is widely followed especially in China. That's because the franchise drafted Chinese player Yao Ming in 2002. The eight-time NBA All-Star was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.
NBA China was launched in 2008. Seventeen NBA teams have played 26 games in Beijing, Guangzhou, Macao, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Taipei in the past five years. NBA China alone is now worth over 4 billion U.S. dollars, according to Forbes.