A Houston Rockets leader demonstrating in support of the demonstrations in Hong Kong, that lives diplomatic tension with Chinatriggered a series of announcements impacting NBA actions in the Chinese market, the league's largest outside the United States.
Understand the case that shook the relationship between the two parties:
Why did the crisis break out? Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, posted on his Twitter last Friday (4) a message that read: "Fight for Freedom. Stay with Hong Kong." The message, deleted on the same day, had a very negative impact on the Chinese market.
That's because China lives since June this year. tense moment in relationship with Hong Kong, after the government of the Hon. executive Carrie Lam introduced a bill to change extradition rules, which opened the possibility for citizens to be sent to China for trial.
Thousands of people started to occupy the streets since then, protesting not only against the bill, but also against Chinese rule over the territory. A former British colony, the region came under the control of the Chinese authorities in 1997, albeit with another system of government.
What was the reaction of the Houston Rockets manager? Daryl Morey apologized on Sunday (6) in a message also posted on his Twitter: "It was not my intention to offend Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. I have always appreciated the significant support from our Chinese fans and sponsors and hope that those they were offended to know that offending them was not my intention. The tweets are mine and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA. "
How did the NBA stand? On Monday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gave a press conference in Tokyo, where the Houston Rockets played a preseason friendly, and defended freedom of expression.
“Daryl Morey, as general manager of the Houston Rockets, enjoys this right as one of our employees. I understand that your freedom of speech has consequences, and we will have to deal with those consequences, ”Silver said.
On Tuesday (8), he spoke again through an official statement. "We will not apologize for the fact that Daryl has used his right to freedom of expression. It is inevitable that people around the world will have different points of view on different topics. It is not the NBA's role to judge these topics. The NBA does not allow itself to regulate what players, employees and team owners say or fail to say about these issues, "said the commissioner.
Leading star of the Houston franchise, winger James Harden apologized for the tweet from the team's general manager. "We apologize. You know, we love China, we love to play there," the star posted on his Twitter account.
How big is the Chinese NBA market? About 300 million people play basketball in China, a number that makes sport one of the most popular in the country. The relationship with the NBA is even stronger. About 500 million Chinese people are estimated to consume NBA game-related content.
The NBA has been operating in China since 1992, when it opened its first office in the region, right in Hong Kong. In 2008, the entity founded NBA China, the arm responsible for managing the league's business in the country. According to Forbes, the company is worth just over $ 4 billion.
Since 2004, 27 league preseason games have been based in China. According to Bloomberg, the NBA brings together superior online engagement from the world's three largest football leagues combined (English, Spanish and German).
What were the immediate consequences on the business relationship between the parties? Following remarks by Adam Silver, the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, with whom the NBA had a three-decade relationship for the league, announced the suspension of the Houston Rockets games and other friendly matches being played in China.
Among them is the Los Angeles Lakers vs. Brooklyn Nets duel, the team owned by Taiwanese Joe Tsai, co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.
Internet company Tencent, which streams NBA matches to millions of fans in China, has also suspended all of its Houston Rockets game broadcasts and even offered financial compensation to package subscribers that included team matches.
Tencent and the NBA recently struck a renewal deal for the 2024/2025 season for $ 1.5 billion (just over $ 6 million).
According to the Reuters news agency, the brands Li-Ning (sports equipment) and SPD Bank (bank) have canceled their deals with the Houston Rockets. Other NBA-based companies in the country have announced cancellations, including cosmetic brands, coffee chains, car rental companies and other industries.
The impact of the case even reached charity events. The NBA Cares, the social program of the organization, canceled at least two events in Chinese territory due to the repercussion generated by Daryl Morey's tweet. In one of them, which was to visit the Brooklyn Nets to an educational center in Shanghai, the cancellation came from the Chinese government.
Why is Houston Rockets so important in China? Chosen as the first draft pick in 2002 by the Houston team, the 2.29m Chinese pivot Yao Ming became one of the league's top players during his NBA years. Served in nine seasons, retiring in 2011 with averages of 19 points and 9.2 rebounds per match, plus 1.9 block.
Its impact on American sport has made basketball a sensation in China. As a result, it made the Houston Rockets become the favorite team of the Chinese.
Yao Ming was disappointed by the demonstration of top hat Daryl Morey last week. The former pivot is president of the Chinese Basketball Federation, which has announced a break in relations with the team. The federation also canceled two G League games, the NBA Development League, involving teams affiliated with the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks.
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