Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey’s controversial Twitter post supporting Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters could cost the National Basketball Association team around $25m in sponsorship losses this season, according to the New York Times.
The Rockets have been one of the most popular NBA teams in China for many years, largely because Hall of Fame center Yao Ming played for the franchise for most of his career.
But the decision of several Chinese businesses to suspend ties with the Rockets following Morey’s tweet – which sparked an international controversy that overshadowed the NBA’s pair of preseason games in China last week between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets – indicates that the incident will have major financial consequences for the team.
Sportswear firm Li-Ning Company and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank have said they will suspend cooperation with the team. Meanwhile, Rockets merchandise has been pulled from Nike stores in several Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Chengdu. Major Chinese e-commerce platforms Alibaba and JD.com have also taken Rockets merchandise off their sales platforms, including mobile apps.
It is unclear if Chinese state broadcaster CCTV’s sports channel or technology company Tencent will broadcast Rockets games this season.
“I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention,” Morey said in a tweet on October 6.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver expressed regret over the hurt that had been caused in China, but backed the right to free expression of NBA staff and affiliates.