Chinese Retailers Are Removing Houston Rockets Branded Merch as NBA/China Rift Widens
Over the last 12 years, only the San Antonio Spurs have won more NBA games than the Houston Rockets, a period that has encompassed the career of Daryl Morey as the latter’s general manager. Their success has helped the club to become popular in China, thanks to the career of since-retired center Yao Ming, but Rockets branded merch is disappearing in the country because of a tweet that Morey senton Friday regarding the rights of Hong Kong residents.
The NBA's relationship with China is evaporating. They're painting over the Rockets logo in Shanghai. 😳
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) October 8, 2019
The complexities surrounding the China - Hong Kong situation run deep, and Morey made what some are dubbing an egregious mishap by daring to insert his opinion into the conversation. While the NBA attempts to wade through the matter so as to preserve its presence among ravenous basketball fans in China’s lucrative market, the country is making clear that it feels the Rockets need immediate punishment for Morey’s comments, with stores and e-commerce platforms ridding themselves of the goods.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who has given a nod to the general manager’s right to voice a stance on the tensions in China—where protests have gone on since March and have intensified since early June over a plethora of matters—is helming the process. And his efforts could prove quite telling on the extent of his league’s documented concerns for social justice.
Morey has since attempted to clarify his aims in having taken to Twitter to support Hong Kong, and Silver has noted that the NBA will issue no apology for said intentions. The NBA has long enjoyed global status as a supreme moneymaker, and the Rockets have pocketed a fair amount of that cash and will likely add more, at least in the U.S., thanks to the addition of guard Russell Westbrook. For now, though, Chinese supporters might need to look to root for another organization if their country’s commerce and government officials continue to see the Morey tweet, not to mention Silver’s defense of his freedom to compose it, as affronts. The Star Tribune noted that the backlash against the Rockets has grown so severe that China has begun painting over murals that include Ming, a national hero owing to his time with the Rockets franchise.
— The Hill (@thehill) October 9, 2019
As this Sports Illustrated article explains, the NBA could part with a pretty penny if China makes it a pariah, and we could easily see those who side with Morey and those who oppose his beliefs debating on whether the loss of the money could prove morally profitable to the league. As it stands now, star guard James Harden, Westbrook and the other Rockets are persona non grata, at least in a merchandise sense, for Chinese officials, giving us further evidence that the sports world and political considerations will not cease to be a much-scrutinized duo.
“Free Hong Kong”, that’s what a couple chanted during tonight’s @sixers exhibition game, and it got them kicked out. This as the NBA and China are embroiled in controversy after Houston Rocket’s GM’s tweet. @6abc➡️ https://t.co/o4kALa5VSI pic.twitter.com/C4P3q46Krp
— Christie Ileto (@Christie_Ileto) October 9, 2019