(Reuters) - The National Basketball Association (NBA) took heavy fire on Monday for saying a weekend tweet by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey, which supported Hong Kong protests for democracy, was “regrettable” and “inappropriate.”
Here is some of the reaction from both sides of the flap:
- “As a lifelong @HoustonRockets fan, I was proud to see @dmorey call out the Chinese Communist Party’s repressive treatment of protesters in Hong Kong. Now, in pursuit of $$, the @NBA is shamefully retreating.” - Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, on Twitter.
- “We must put human rights above profit. And that means standing with #HongKong. The NBA’s refusal to denounce Communist China is shameful. I’m requesting a meeting with @NBA Commissioner Silver to discuss the importance of supporting the brave individuals fighting for freedom.” - Republican U.S. Senator Rick Scott of Florida, on Twitter.
- “Um, yeah, we apologize, you know. You know, we love China, we love playing there. ... They show us the most support and love, so, you know, we appreciate them as a fan base, and we love everything, you know, they’re about and we appreciate the support they give us, individually and as an organization, so ... we love you.” - Houston Rockets guard James Harden, in a Reuters TV interview.
- “I watched the Rockets for 21 years, but I’m still a Chinese person first and foremost.” - one social media user.
- “The NBA wants money, and the Communist Party of China is asking them to deny the most basic of human rights. In response, the NBA issued a statement saying money is the most important thing.” - Republican U.S. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, in a statement.
- “The one thing that is terribly misunderstood, and often ignored, by the western press and those critical of China, is that 1.4 billion Chinese citizens stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China and the country’s sovereignty over her homeland. This issue is non-negotiable. ... I don’t know Daryl personally. I am sure he’s a fine NBA general manager, and I will take at face value his subsequent apology that he was not as well informed as he should have been. But the hurt this incident has caused will take a long time to repair.” - Joseph Tsai, owner of the Brooklyn Nets NBA team and co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, on his personal Facebook page.
- “And the #NBA, which (correctly) has no problem with players/employees criticizing our gov’t, is now apologizing for criticizing the Chinese gov’t. This is shameful and cannot stand.” - Democratic U.S. Representative Tom Malinowski of New Jersey, on Twitter, referring to the league’s policy of not imposing fines on NBA players protesting deadly police shootings in the United States.
- “China is using its economic power to silence critics—even those in the U.S.
“The United States must lead with our values and speak out for pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong, and not allow American citizens to be bullied by an authoritarian government.” - Julian Castro, Democratic presidential contender and former U.S. housing secretary.
- Morey “has the right to express his values, and Chinese fans of the Houston Rockets have the right to abandon this team. If the Rockets want to keep its Chinese market, the team need to avoid offending Chinese public.” - Hu Xijin, editor of the state-controlled Global Times newspaper, in a tweet.
- “Chinese govt has a million people locked in concentration camps & is trying to brutally repress Hong Kong demonstrators - and NBA wants to ‘bridge cultural divides’? Cultural divides?” - Republican U.S. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, referring to allegations of human rights abuses in China.
- “We want to express our indignation and strong condemnation. We have already stopped our cooperation with the Houston Rockets, and continue to urge them to give a clear answer on this matter.” - Chinese sportswear brand Li-Ning, on the Twitter-like Weibo platform.
- “This is bigger than just the @NBA. It’s about #China’s growing ability to restrict freedom of expression here in the U.S.
“TV networks,airlines,hotel chains,retailers & Hollywood already self censor.
“Now private citizens risk losing their jobs if they offend China.” - Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, in a tweet.
- “No one should implement a gag rule on Americans speaking out for freedom.” - Democratic U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, in a tweet.
- “SPD Bank Credit Card Center expresses strong protest and opposition to the wrong remarks made by Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey.” - statement on the Chinese bank’s Weibo account in which it said it had suspended related marketing activities and publicity.
- “I’m hurting for them (the Rockets) today ... because (retired star Rockets player) Yao Ming is the biggest reason that NBA today is as popular as it is in China. And Yao and others, and the Rockets in particular, have probably done more to promote the game of basketball than any other team.” - Golden State Warriors President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Welts, in an interview on CNBC, who predicted a bright future for the NBA in China.
Compiled by Jonathan Oatis; Editing by Paul Simao and Peter Cooney