China cuts ties with Houston Rockets, Fertitta shows signs of firing Morey

Houston Rockets Daryl Morey (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Daryl Morey (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

The Houston Rockets are under heavy scrutiny from Chinese officials after a controversial tweet from Daryl Morey, potentially leaving his future in doubt.

The Houston Rockets have always been popular in China since the days of Yao Ming, but over the weekend, that relationship has had a fallout following a picture posted by Daryl Morey that was in support of the Hong Kong protestors, which has been followed by a ban of the team in the country.

Interesting situation going on with Rockets GM, Daryl Morey, right now:

– Morey tweeted support for Hong Kong.
– Rockets owner, Tilman Fertitta, quickly distanced the team from the tweet, which has a big Chinese fanbase.
– Morey’s latest tweet has been ratioed by Chinese users.

— Olgun Uluc (@OlgunUluc) October 5, 2019

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta responded quickly to try and separate the team from any political affiliation, but the reaction from China has been huge regardless.

Minutes after the initial Hong Kong tweet, Morey was quick to delete it and later posted another picture of his view in Tokyo, but that tweet was bombarded with comments from supporters from the Chinese mainland.

On Sunday morning, more reactions came from the Chinese government as they announced that they had contacted local officials in Houston in hopes of pressuring the Rockets to address Morey’s tweet.

Chinese Consulate General Spokesperson released a statement:

“We have lodged representations and expressed strong dissatisfaction with the Houston Rockets, and urged the latter to correct the error and take immediate concrete measures to eliminate the adverse impact.”

— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) October 6, 2019

In the statement from the Chinese Consulate General Spokesperson, it is made clear that the Chinese government will keep the Rockets banned in the country until they see action taken to “correct the error.”

While it is unclear exactly what action Chinese officials want the Rockets to take, it is certainly within the realm of possibility that they will not lift the ban until Morey is forced to step down or is let go.

Morey, who has always been regarded as one of the best general managers in the NBA, is following a successful offseason with the moves he made to land Russell Westbrook and fill the team with new rotational pieces as well as being able to keep key players from a season ago.

The Rockets, however, are a business, and as of February, Forbes ranked the team as the seventh-most valuable team in the NBA.

A good amount of that value comes from the Chinese-based sponsorships that Houston has had for years which have suddenly been cut off for the moment.

While Morey is the crème de la crème when it comes to NBA general managers, the potential money he may have just cost the Rockets could force Fertitta to make a hard decision.

Tilman Fertitta to ESPN: “I have the best general manager in the league. Everything is fine with Daryl and me. We got a huge backlash, and I wanted to make clear that [the organization] has no [political] position. We’re here to play basketball and not to offend anybody.”

— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) October 5, 2019

When asked about his relationship with Morey, Fertitta stood-pat with his GM, but the pressure coming from China will not go away any time soon.

Tilman Fertitta liked these comments on Instagram of fans/commenters wanting him to get rid of Daryl Morey. #Rockets

— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) October 6, 2019

On Sunday afternoon, however, Fertitta liked a few Instagram comments that were advocating for the removal of Morey as GM. While no action has been taken, there is a lot of room for speculation as China is huge market for Houston.

Update -Daryl Morey issued an apology on Twitter Sunday night:

1/ 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.

— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) October 7, 2019

2/ 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.

— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) October 7, 2019

Shams Charania also reports the NBA will not be disciplining Morey for his post:

NBA is not disciplining Rockets GM Daryl Morey for his social media post, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium. Morey also issued apology tonight.

— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 7, 2019

Latest Update, 8:20 p.m. ET Sunday – Houston Chronicle columnist Jerome Solomon tweeted this regarding the situation:

I have it from a source who knows all. Daryl Morey’s job with the #Rockets is not in jeopardy and “It was never in jeopardy.” … Feel free to keep talking about everything else, but stop that.

— Jerome Solomon (@JeromeSolomon) October 7, 2019

This situation is an ongoing development that seems to be adding new wrinkles by the hour.

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We will keep track of all news surrounding this and update this post as we learn more.