The Houston Rockets could lose up to $25 million in revenue this season as the league deals with the aftermath of Daryl Morey’s tweet in support of Hong Kong.
The NBA season begins next week, but preseason basketball has been largely overshadowed by the league’s controversy with China after Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey sent out a tweet supporting Hong Kong protestors.
China, a country known to censor opposing political rhetoric, took quick action against the NBA. Tencent temporarily stopped streaming NBA preseason games, even though more than half a billion viewers watched NBA games on the platform in the 2017-18 season. Chinese State TV has not broadcasted a single NBA game since last week. Some Chinese e-commerce companies, most notably Alibaba, blocked products related to the Houston Rockets. Even the Chinese Basketball Association, whose chairman is Rockets legend Yao Ming, suspended cooperation with the league.
All of these sponsorship pullouts could be costly for the Houston Rockets and for the league as a whole. The Rockets could lose up to $25 million this season, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times. Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports reported that several teams from the around the NBA think the projected salary cap for the 2020-21 season could drop by as much as 15 percent and are already planning for a smaller cap.
However, China’s harsh stance against the NBA appears to be softening. After its initial ban against the league, Tencent streamed two preseason NBA games on Monday. According to Bloomberg, other preseason games will be streamed in pictures and text, but the company will resume full video streaming on Oct. 23.
The New York Times also reported that China’s officials are aiming to cool down the nation’s outrage against the NBA, as the country fears its image could suffer after attempts to bully the league into submission.
It’s a good thing this story is starting to die down before the start of the regular season. This fallout has been a distraction for the Houston Rockets, who are looking to win their first championship in over two decades.
Hopefully Daryl Morey and the Rockets organization can quickly put all of this behind them and give their full attention to basketball.