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Thursday, July 9, 2020

Articles tagged: Daryl Morey

NBA apologizes after reporter was blocked from asking Rockets players about China

Adam Silver

The NBA has tried to make it clear that it respects the rights of its executives, coaches and players to express their opinions on social and political issues, but two Houston Rockets stars were prevented from doing that following their preseason game in Japan on Thursday. According to the league, that was not supposed to happen.

When a reporter asked James Harden and Russell Westbrook a question related to the China situation after Houston’s 118-111 exhibition win over the Toronto Raptors, a Rockets team staffer quickly interjected and said the players would be answering “basketball questions only.”

The question was actually a more general one about whether Westbrook and Harden would be hesitant to express themselves freely going forward given all that has happened in recent days, but they were still stopped from answering it.

A few hours later, the NBA said the Rockets staffer “inappropriately interjected” and apologized to the reporter who was cut off.

This is yet another example of what a mess this situation has become. The NBA is caught between protecting its multibillion-dollar business interests while also remaining consistent with its longstanding views on freedom of speech, and that is precisely why commissioner Adam Silver has had to release multiple statements this week.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey angered many in China when he tweeted his support of the pro-democracy protests that have been ongoing in Hong Kong. China is a communist country, so now Silver has to somehow tread the line between staying on the good side of his communist business partners and supporting a league executive who essentially said “democracy is a good thing.” There’s simply no easy way to handle it, and that’s why there has been so much flip-flopping over the issue.

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76ers fan says he was kicked out of preseason game for supporting Hong Kong

Philadelphia 76ers logo

The NBA has found itself scrambling to somehow repair its relationship with China in the wake of Daryl Morey publicly showing support for the protests in Hong Kong, and the league may be taking measures to avoid the controversy at home in addition to overseas.

A Philadelphia 76ers fan named Sam Wachs says he and his wife were kicked out of the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night for showing support for Hong Kong during the Sixers’ preseason game against the Guangzhou Loong-Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association. Wachs, who lived in Hong Kong for two years, says he and his wife were holding up signs that said “Free Hong Kong” and “Free HK.”

Arena security confiscated the signs, and Wachs says the couple was kicked out during the second quarter for yelling, “Free Hong Kong” after the signs were taken.

“We were saying, ‘Free Hong Kong,” Wachs told NBC10 in Philly. “You know, what’s wrong with that?”

Wachs says he and his wife were sitting near the Chinese bench, but he insists they were simply expressing support for the pro-democratic protests in Hong Kong. NBC10 reached out to the 76ers for an explanation, but the team did not provide any comment.

It’s unclear if Wells Fargo Arena security decided themselves that Wachs and his wife were violating the fan code of conduct or if the NBA has issued some sort of directive. Whatever the case, we know the situation between China and the league continues to get more complicated by the day.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has expressed regret that Morey’s tweets offended so many people in China, but he said the league will not apologize for respecting the Houston Rockets GM’s right to express himself freely. The biggest names in the NBA are typically not shy in expressing their opinions about political and social justice issues, though we have already heard some disappointing responses to the China situation.

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Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich’s responses to China situation are disappointing

Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich are two of the finest coaches in the NBA, if not the world. They also happen to be wise in terms of how they handle leadership matters and political discussions. When others are too timid or unsure of what to say in response to certain issues, Kerr and Popovich frequently are there to speak out. That’s a large part of what has made them so popular in the sports world and beyond. That’s also what makes their responses — or lack of responses — to the Daryl Morey/NBA China situation so disappointing.

When asked about the matter on Monday, rather than go to bat for his colleague Daryl Morey, who supported those protesting in Hong Kong, Kerr said he did not want to talk about the matter because he was not knowledgeable enough about the subject. He called it a “bizarre international story.”

“It’s a really bizarre international story, and a lot of us don’t know what to make of it. So it’s something I’m reading about just like everybody is, but I’m not going to comment further than that,” Kerr said, via Golden State Warriors reporter Logan Murdock.

“What I’ve found is that it’s easy to speak on issues that I’m passionate about and that I feel like I’m well-versed on, and I’ve found that it makes the most sense to stick to topics that fall in that category,” he added. “So I try to keep my comments to those things, and so it’s not difficult. It’s more I’m just trying to learn.”

On Tuesday, Popovich was asked about the matter and offered his support for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

“He’s been a heck of a leader in that respect and very courageous,” Popovich told reporters at the Spurs-Miami Heat preseason game Tuesday, via USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt. “Compared to what we’ve had to live through the last three years, there’s a big difference gap there leadership-wise and courage-wise.”

Keep in mind that the NBA tailored a statement to China in which they called Morey’s support of Hong Kong protesters “inappropriate” and said they were “extremely disappointed” in the Rockets GM. Popovich could have supported Morey — a position I would have expected him to take based on the Spurs coach’s past support of individual rights. But he stood with Silver instead. And Kerr wriggled off the hook by feigning ignorance.

Popovich supported Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem. Kerr has as well and even said the NFL was “blackballing” the former quarterback for kneeling. These guys have called out Donald Trump when they felt the president’s behavior was inappropriate.

And they choose not to support Daryl Morey standing for democracy and freedom of speech — values they have championed in the past — when they had the opportunity? That’s very disappointing.

The league is preserving its business relationship with China. So is ESPN. Kerr and Popovich are doing the same. How much different does this make them from the NFL and the NFL’s owners, who wanted anthem protests to go away because it was also bad for business?

There are no two ways about it; China is a communist country. The fact that some think twice about criticizing China due to the country’s political spin tactics and actions against dissenters prove these truths. Supporting democracy, freedom of speech, and other first amendment rights — as Morey did — is not a partisan issue; it’s American right down to our constitution.

The fact that Kerr, Popovich, and others feel so comfortable issuing criticism in America but fear doing so about China helps prove why our country, despite some of its faults, is great. And if you support Kaepernick for standing up and expressing his beliefs against what he felt was wrong, you similarly should back Morey for doing the same. That’s what makes it disappointing that these two leaders chose not to.

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Report: ESPN memo told shows to avoid political talk about China, Hong Kong

ESPN

An ESPN internal memo advised those who participate on the network’s talk shows to avoid talking politics about China and Hong Kong when discussing the Daryl Morey/Houston Rockets situation, according to a report.

Deadspin published a story on Tuesday about the matter that included information about the internal memo.

According to the story:

“Chuck Salituro, the senior news director of ESPN, sent a memo to shows mandating that any discussion of the Daryl Morey story avoid any political discussions about China and Hong Kong, and instead focus on the related basketball issues. The memo, obtained by Deadspin, explicitly discouraged any political discussion about China and Hong Kong.”

This policy should come as no surprise. One of new ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro’s first items of business upon taking over the position was to establish a firm policy of personalities avoiding political talk. Host Dan Le Batard was one of the few who challenged that policy with comments he made during the summer.

Furthermore, it’s not hard to see why ESPN would want its on-air personalities to avoid getting into the subject. ESPN is owned by Disney, which does business in China, including having a Disneyland in Shanghai. They and the NBA are TV partners and have worked hard to develop business relationships in China that they’re trying not to ruin. And like many big businesses, they’ve chosen to appease the communist country in an effort to preserve business relationships rather than stand up for democracy and human rights/freedoms.

Do you support Free Speech? Do you stand with Daryl Morey? Get the shirt that says so below!

Video shows Rockets artwork being painted over at basketball court in China

Daryl Morey

The fallout from the controversy that was sparked by Daryl Morey’s tweet about the protests in Hong Kong has been far-reaching, and several fans and entities in China have been distancing themselves from the Houston Rockets.

China’s state-run CCTV and Tencent, the NBA’s exclusive digital partner in China, have suspended broadcasting and streaming for the two preseason games that are being held in the country. We’ve also seen some smaller-scale distancing from the NBA and the Rockets, such as this video showing Rockets logos and murals of Houston players being painted over at an indoor gym in Shanghai:

The vast majority of the media in China is controlled by the government, which is why Brooks Melchior of SportsbyBrooks.com notes that the video may have been propaganda. Still, it shows how angry the people of China are over the situation.

The protests Morey showed support for have been taking place in opposition to an extradition bill that has many in the Hong Kong area concerned about their political autonomy and influence from the Chinese government. Some of the demonstrations have turned violent, which is why Chinese officials and many people in China are angry Morey supported them. Other are angry that the NBA has tried to distance itself from Morey when he was arguing in favor of democracy.

The NBA has issued multiple statements addressing the situation, with commissioner Adam Silver reiterating on Tuesday that the league supports Morey’s right to freedom of speech but regrets that so many were angered by his tweet.

Do you support Free Speech? Do you stand with Daryl Morey? Get the shirt that says so below!

Adam Silver issues new statement on situation between NBA and China

Adam Silver

The original statement that NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued in response to Houston Rockets general manager Darryl Morey’s tweet about Hong Kong left many fans outraged, and the league is now trying to clarify its stance.

On Sunday night, the NBA issued a statement acknowledging that Morey’s tweet supporting the protests in Hong Kong “offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable.” The statement said the league respects the history and culture of China but also supports Morey’s right to have an opinion and express it, even if the opinion is not shared by the NBA or the Rockets.

The reaction to the initial statement inspired Silver to clarify the NBA’s stance with a new statement on Tuesday morning. He said he understands the original statement left people “angered, confused or unclear on who we are or what the NBA stands for” but insisted the league’s motivation “is about far more than growing our business.”

The protests Morey showed support for have been taking place in opposition to an extradition bill that has many in the Hong Kong area concerned about their political autonomy and influence from the Chinese government. Silver said the NBA simply cannot operate in a way that regulates what players, employees and team owners say about political issues.

The NBA generates a big portion of its business from China, which is why Morey’s tweet has sparked a major controversy for the league. There was even evidence that the NBA issued two different statements to appeal to both fans in the United States and China, which is why Silver put out a new press release on Tuesday.

Do you support Free Speech? Do you stand with Daryl Morey? Get the shirt that says so below!

Did NBA share two different statements about Daryl Morey comments in appeal to China?

Adam Silver

A Google translation suggests the NBA issued two different statements about Daryl Morey’s Hong Kong tweet — one to appeal to their fans in the U.S., and another to appeal to those in China.

On Sunday night, the NBA issued the following statement to its fans in the U.S.:

“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. We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.”

The statement seems to say: we regret that Morey sent something that offended people in China.

However, Yiqin Fu said on Twitter that the statement the NBA shared in China condemned Morey. That statement said the NBA was “extremely disappointed” in the Houston Rockets GM’s tweet.

The New York Times’ Sopan Deb also said their Hong Kong team came up with the same translation:

We tracked down the NBA’s statement that appeared on Chinese social media service Weibo — China’s version of Twitter. We copied the entire statement into Google Translate, and this is what the translation yielded:

“We are extremely disappointed with the inappropriate comments made by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who has undoubtedly seriously hurt the feelings of Chinese fans. Morey has clarified that his remarks do not represent the position of the Rockets and the NBA. Under the values of the NBA, people can learn more about what they are interested in and share their opinions. We respect China’s history and culture with great respect. We hope that sports and the NBA, as a positive energy of unity, will continue to build bridges for international cultural exchanges and bring people together.”

In the first statement, the NBA says we regret Morey offended those in China. In the second statement, the translation says the NBA is “extremely disappointed” in Morey over his “inappropriate comments.” The two statements are much different and seem to appeal to different audiences; one appeals to Chinese people who are offended, and the other to Americans from a league that has constantly stood up for social justice.

So what is going on here? There are a few possible scenarios that we can think of:

1) The NBA issued two different statements, one to appeal to each audience in an attempt to straddle both sides of the fence

2) The Google translation is incorrect, which is possible considering translation technology is not perfect and some wording/expressions are difficult to translate

3) Weibo changed the wording of the NBA’s statement

Morey’s original tweet was sent on Friday night and contained a graphic saying he supported those protesting in Hong Kong. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta immediately distanced the team from Morey’s tweet.

After a report said Morey’s job status was being discussed, the Rockets GM shared the following statement:

“I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives. 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. My tweets are my own and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA,” Morey said.

Do you support Free Speech? Do you stand with Daryl Morey? Get the shirt that says so below!