Chinese basketball body halts cooperation with Houston Rockets over offending tweet
By Huizhong Wu and Hallie Gu
BEIJING, Oct 6 (Reuters) - The Chinese Basketball Association said on Sunday it was suspending "exchanges and cooperation" with the Houston Rockets basketball team, after their general manager took to Twitter to support protests in Hong Kong.
The Rockets are widely followed in China, partly because they drafted the Chinese basketball player Yao Ming in 2002, who became a star for them and helped build the NBA's following there.
In a statement posted on China's Twitter-like Weibo, the association, chaired by Yao, said it opposed Daryl Morey's comment, which it called inappropriate.
"Houston Rockets General Manager Morey publicly made an inappropriate comment related to Hong Kong," it said. "The Chinese Basketball Association strongly opposes this and will suspend exchanges and cooperation."
It did not detail the nature of the cooperation or how long the suspension would last.
Reuters' telephone calls to the association to seek comment went unanswered.
Morey's original Twitter message over the weekend included an image captioned, "Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong." The post has since been removed and team owner Tilman Fertitta went on Twitter to distance the team from the statement.
"Daryl Morey does not speak for the Houston Rockets," he said on Saturday. "Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the NBA internationally and we are not a political organization."
The Rockets could not be reached for comment outside of business hours.
Basketball fans in China were not appeased, with many airing criticism of the Rockets on Weibo.
"I watched the Rockets for 21 years, but I'm still a Chinese person first and foremost," said one user in response to the basketball association's announcement.
Another said, "We Chinese basketball fans call on either Morey to apologize or the Rockets to fire Morey. If this doesn't happen, then we call on fans to boycott watching Rockets games." (Reporting by Huizhong Wu and Hallie Gu; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)