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Chinese suspend work with Houston Rockets after GM’s Hong Kong tweet

Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey ruffled feathers in China. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Thousands of Hong Kongers have for months protested China’s rising influence in the city. Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey apologized on Twitter over a now-deleted tweet that spoke in support of Hong Kong protesters; the deleted tweet read, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong". Morey’s apology underscores the challenges American companies face when they want to do business in China’s massive economy, but can’t run the risk of saying anything that will upset the country’s autocratic government.

The National Basketball Association has become China’s most popular sports league. Although Morey quickly deleted the tweet, sportswear brand Li-Ning and Rockets sponsor Shanghai Pudong Development Bank (SPD Bank) Credit Card Center announced on Sunday they were suspending ties with the team.

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta immediately denounced Morey’s comments with his own tweet.

Listen…Daryl Morey does NOT speak for the Houston Rockets. Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization.

This was Daryl Morey’s apology on Twitter:

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 opportunities 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.