New Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, previously the general manager for the Houston Rockets, doubled down on his pro-Hong Kong support from last year which ignited an international firestorm after it enraged the Chinese Communist Party.
Back in October 2019, as pro-freedom activists engaged in protests in Hong Kong, Morey tweeted out a graphic that stated: “Fight For Freedom Stand With Hong Kong”
“In the last 12 months, I had moments where I thought I might never work in the NBA again, for reasons I was willing to go down for,” Morey told ESPN this week. “But I love working, I love what I do, and I didn’t want that to happen.”
ESPN noted that Morey had “befriended a number of Hong Kong residents while attending business school and had intimate knowledge of the challenges they faced living in a semi-autonomous region.”
When ESPN asked him if he regretted his decision to publicly announce support for Hong Kong, Morey responded, “I’m very comfortable with what I did.”
Morey told ESPN that what he was “really worried about” was the safety of his wife and two children because he was receiving threats over the tweet.
“Luckily I had [access to] different people who were assisting me with that and giving me advice on how to handle it. Hopefully, I’ve been able to get where we have some level of safety,” he said. “But I was extremely concerned. You don’t want the second-most powerful government on Earth mad at you, if you can avoid it. In this case, I couldn’t.”
Daryl Morey stands by his tweet supporting Hong Kong protests. Good for him. This is what we need: people willing to speak out about authoritarianism despite the immense pressure it may bring. https://t.co/rga0lLxD6M pic.twitter.com/wx236ji1xh
— Sarah McLaughlin (@sarahemclaugh) December 24, 2020
Morey’s October 2019 tweet instantly ignited outrage from China’s communist government, which moved to sever ties with the Rockets over the incident. The NBA released a statement at the time saying that it was “regrettable” that Morey “deeply offended” people in China and that his pro-freedom tweet did “not represent the Rockets or the NBA.”
Morey even walked a fine line in issuing a statement explaining his intent in posting the tweet.
“I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China,” Morey wrote on Twitter. “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. 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.”
Numerous Republican Senators weighed in on the issue, including Josh Hawley (MO), Ted Cruz (TX) and Rick Scott (FL).
NBA player LeBron James, a vocal social justice activist, attacked Morey for the tweet, telling reporters, “We all talk about this freedom of speech, yes, we all do have freedom of speech but at times there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you’re not thinking about others and you’re only thinking about yourself.”
“I don’t want to get into a … feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand and he spoke. So many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically, emotionally, and spiritually,” James continued. “So, just be careful what we tweet and say and what we do even though, yes, we do have freedom of speech there can be a lot of negatives that comes with that too.”