Home » National Basketball Association (NBA) » Tweet From NBA Manager May Change The Way America Conducts Business With China

Daryl Morey, the Houston Rockets’ general manager, tweeted an image (now deleted) reading, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” and set off a political firestorm in the sports and business world.

China represents one of the most lucrative markets for the NBA—estimated to comprise 10% of the league's revenue. Chinese officials are heavy handed in dealing with people and companies failing to yield to their demands. To appease the Chinese government and President Xi Jinping, Morey, the Houston Rockets and the NBA groveled for their forgiveness—concerned about the loss of lucrative sponsorships and other revenues generated from their activities in China. Ironically, Morey's tweet couldn’t be read by the Chinese people as the government banned Twitter.

China's official state sports channel, CCTV 5, said it would suspend showing Houston Rockets events on its station. Roughly 600 million people watched NBA games on Chinese television networks last season.

To put this into context, Hong Kong is part of China, but has some autonomy and the citizens tend to hold more rights than the overall Chinese population. Hong Kong was a British colony for over 150 years. An agreement between England and China stated that Hong Kong would be returned to China under the principle of "one country, two systems." Residents of Hong Kong are not too happy with the idea of being placed completely under China’s rule. They claim that their rights and freedom will be abridged. Massive protests in the streets have broken out in Hong Kong—asking to keep its sovereignty.

The tweet started a political firestorm revealing China’s dictatorial hold over the business world.

China has been routinely accused of stealing U.S. and other country’s intellectual property, forcing foreigners to enter into partnerships with Chinese companies as a requirement to conduct business in their country and stand accused of putting over one million Uighur Muslims in "concentration camps."

Initially, the NBA tried to downplay the situation and issued a statement, “We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.”

The league's kowtowing to the Chinese Communist government spurs a backlash in the U.S. among fans, politicians and proponents of free speech.

President Donald Trump criticized Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and Warriors star Steph Curry for their pandering to the Chinese, particularly since they have been vocal about social issues in America. Trump called out Kerr, likening him to a little boy. Trump said, “[Kerr] was so scared to be even answering the question," when he was asked his opinion over this matter. "He couldn't answer the question. He was shaking, 'Oh, oh, oh, I don't know. I don't know,'" Trump said. "He didn't know how to answer the question, and yet he'll talk about the United States very badly."

Beto O'Rourke, Democratic presidential hopeful, said that the NBA's response was "an embarrassment."

Feeling the pressure, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued a follow-up statement affirming that the league won't censor players or team owners over China and that the league is motivated by much more than money.

It now seems that the rift with China may become permanent. News reports reflect that both sides are trying to decouple their business ties and become less dependent on one another. This one tweet may have awakened America and other countries to the heavy-handed manner in which China deals with foreign businesses and elect to trade and partner with other, more liberal-minded countries that respect liberty and free trade.