The kerfuffle arising from Daryl Morey’s tweet about Hong Kong has dominated the NBA news over the last few days. To recap:
Morey tweeted in support of protesters in Hong Kong, who are protesting encroaching Chinese rule. I won’t pretend to understand the issues with any sort of expertise, but these protests were set off by proposed legislation that would allow extradition from the semi-autonomous Hong Kong to mainland China. Protesters were and are concerned that such a law would be used to get political critics and dissidents into the Chinese criminal justice system.
China, of course, is a huge market for the NBA, where the Rockets are particularly popular thanks to former star (and current head of the Chinese Basketball Association) Yao Ming.
Morey soon deleted the tweet, and Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta immediately tried to distance the Rockets and the NBA from it:
Listen....@dmorey does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets. Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the @NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization. @espn https://t.co/yNyQFtwTTi— Tilman Fertitta (@TilmanJFertitta) October 5, 2019
Reaction from China was swift and harsh: Chinese sponsors of the Rockets cut off ties, the Chinese streaming service that shows NBA games announced that Rockets games would not be available, and the CBA announced that it would cease any cooperation with the team.
This left the NBA in a tough spot. The league has prospered on it’s reputation as the “woke” league, permitting if not encouraging its players and coaches to speak on issues concerning to them. While it’s certain that comments from the likes of Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr have alienated at least some fans, on balance it’s likely been a good thing for the league, which has a generally progressive fan base in the United States.
China though...now your messing with some serious league coin. As Dave Zirin pointed out on twitter last night, let’s separate marketing yourself as woke and actually being woke.
So last night the league issued a rather mealy-mouthed statement:
We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable. While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them.
A reasonably good effort to thread the needle between abject apology and not entirely undermining Morey’s freedom of personal expression.
The version of the statement they released in China, however, translates somewhat differently, calling Morey’s comment “inappropriate.”
At any rate, the league now finds itself trying to repair a relationship that has significant value without appearing to kowtow to an authoritarian government. Fun times.
Speaking of fun, the Wolves are really pushing that idea ahead of the season:
If you don’t love everything about this team yet, we welcome you with open arms after you watch this pic.twitter.com/jVPlZKok1O— Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) October 5, 2019
The team invited family members to the facility for a day:
let’s enhance that family photo for some extremely WHOLESOME content...— Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) October 5, 2019
Finally, rookie karaoke night:
“So this here is our rookie thing. First up is @itsmclaughlin11...” pic.twitter.com/fIA6HkJ6ts— Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) October 6, 2019
Let’s hope all this fun can survive the inevitable losing streaks, benchings, and whatever else happens this season.
Speaking of which, we get our first look at this year’s Wolves tomorrow night when they play their first preseason game in Phoenix against the Suns.
What ya got?