The general manager of NBA team Houston Rockets posted a tweet on Saturday, saying he stands with Hong Kong riot
ers to fight for freedom, which angered Chinese netizens who demanded the team fires him.
Netizens said Daryl Morey has no right to interfere in China's domestic affairs.
"@dmorey does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets… and we are NOT a political organization," Tilman Fertitta, who is the chairman of the Houston Rockets, responded on his Twitter account soon after.
Morey's tweet has been deleted.
Chinese netizens including basketball fans strongly condemned the attitude of Morey on Sina Weibo, the Chinese Twitter-like platform. They think that he has hurt the bottom line of Chinese basketball fans.
Yang Yi, one of China's most famous basketball analysts, said on his Weibo account that Morey's remarks reflect a misreading and distortion of Chinese society and politics.
"The Houston Rockets has received numerous sponsors from China since 2017, and the company can make more than $10 million annually in China," Yang noted. All of these are based on a stable China.
No institution can disturb China's social order after profiting from China's market, he added.
Other Weibo users also said that Hong Kong affairs belong to the bottom line of all Chinese basketball fans, and they urged the company to punish Morey or even fire him.
"No basketball team can stand on top of my country. Morey must be punished. The Hong Kong Special Administration Region is part of China," one Weibo user wrote.
"I don't care if Morey speaks for the Houston Rockets or not. If the company does not fire him, it will say goodbye to the Chinese market," another netizen said.
When the Rockets took part in the first NBA Global Games in China in 2004, it was very much a celebration of the first ever No. 1 NBA draft pick to come out of the world's most populous nation, according to an article on the NBA website.
"The Rockets are China's NBA team," said Du Gong, a reporter for the nation's largest internet portal Tencent. "It began with Yao Ming. But even in the years after he no longer played, this is the team that more Chinese fans know and follow. They are loyal to the team that made their first countryman the No. 1 choice."