div>Probably not even going to hang the Dalai Lama's poster on the walls of the Beijing Forbidden City, Daryl Morey could have done worse damage than those caused by a single post on his Twitter profile. The message, quickly canceled by the General Manager of the Houston Rockets, has provoked a chain reaction so wide, deep and unmanageable at so many levels that the risk of making confusion would become immediate. Better then go in order to understand how the Rockets have transformed themselves over the course of a weekend as an NBA team most loved by the Chinese for franchises to forget as soon as possible.
To do this we start from the image that the Texan GM published in the Italian night between Friday 5 and Saturday 6 October, or the phrase-symbol that has been circulating all over the world for months: "Fight for Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong ". Open up the sky.
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Because so much fuss: the background
Let's take a step back and then make two forward. Why has Daryl Morey – in the midst of the NBA Games programmed for his own Rockets in Asia these days – taken the trouble to post a phrase of support for a city in southeastern China with his official Twitter account?
Summarizing as faithfully and impartially as possible, Hong Kong is going through the most dramatic crisis since, in 1997, it returned under the sovereignty of the People's Republic of China after having been formally a territory of Great Britain for almost the entire 20th century.
Before the arrival of the British Hong Kong had been part of China for almost 700 years, so in 1984 Chinese and Great Britain had signed the Joint Declaration that would have returned the ex-colony to the People's Republic in 1997. With a rather basic note: grown and become one of the strongest and most solid economic powers of the East under the British government, Hong Kong would have maintained a strong autonomy for 50 years compared to the central government of what is called Mainland China (“mainland China "), To soften the transition and the definitive handover in 2047.
Problem: if you have flourished in a sort of small Paradise isolated from the rest of the Eastern world and ruled by settlers, yes, but English, noble, supporters of the free market and of theoretical Western democracy, it is probable that – upon awakening in 1997 – suddenly finding yourself governed by the heirs of the Cultural Revolution of Mao Tse-tung may cause (euphemism) some perplexity about the future course of events.
Doubts that within a few years have all been sadly confirmed: Beijing and the General Secretary of the Communist Party and President Xi Jinping have tried in every lawful and illegal way to creep into the legislative and social structures of the "new" Hong Kong , terrified by the wide freedom of expression and press of the newly acquired territory and by the dangerous autonomy of the city guaranteed by the original agreements with Great Britain.
An obsession for the control of all that is under their great red sky that has been translated into continuous "strongly suggested" bills to local rulers (chosen by them) to exacerbate penalties against "the enemies of the State" ( read: all those who do not think the same, ask the Muslim Uighurs for a chilling demonstration).
Proposals, such as the triggering motive of the latter, huge protest movement – the extradition of criminals in the dreaded prisons of Mainland China – all sent back to the sender by the brave citizens of Hong Kong in the only possible way: to take to the streets in mass, remain to the bitter end and take the adversary out of exhaustion.
It happened on July 1, 2003, the first time that half a million people joined forces against a new government security law. It happened in 2014, with the "umbrella revolution" and the demand for new democratic reforms. It is still happening today and from March 31st 2019, with the umbrellas opened again to shelter from the launch of the police tear gas while 2,000 wounded, 8 suicides and 1,453 arrests have already been registered, enough to force the "mayor" Carrie Lam to withdraw the 4 September the extradition proposal.
With the usual collateral damage (vandalism, robbery, brawls) that such a movement of people can provoke and that the government could use as an excuse for the violent intervention. It can be said that Hong Kong is fighting for its own survival, or at least for that guaranteed by the agreements of the "one nation, two systems". To withdraw from the streets now would mean surrendering to Beijing's interference: the phrase that Daryl Morey published supported this battle, his tweet means all this.
Who really took offense
Now, considering the extreme intelligence of a person who has become synonymous with analytical basketball (not surprisingly renamed Morey Ball), it is difficult to think that the GM from Houston did not know all of these background (even if from his statement in a posthumous reparative tweet it would seem so).
From Western people not close to Beijing's propaganda it seems to have made an underestimation error on how much not only the government but the entire people of mainland China have become sensitive to the Hong Kong issue in this last period: the Protestants are the new enemy that would jeopardize the concepts of "unification" and "sovereignty" so dear to the Chinese government, which has invested much of its one-way but successful rhetoric on pride, national identity and its unstoppable growth as a world economic power .
This in a nutshell is the explanation that the new owner of the Brooklyn Nets, the co-founder of e-commerce giant AliBaba Joseph Tsai (born in Taiwan), gave on his Facebook page to explain to Morey and US fans the reason for so much indignation. Tsai, literally we quote, from a couple of historical digressions into foreign invasions in China, wrote: "supporting a separatist movement is a topic that is not tolerated in China. Westerners who criticize China so much often ignore that 1.4 billion Chinese citizens are united as one man when it comes to China's territorial integrity and sovereignty over its lands. A non-negotiable argument ".
His statements were followed by the intransigent ones of government institutions: the Beijing offices did not miss the opportunity to launch a verbal attack on a symbol of the USA of Donald Trump in the middle of the trade-war between the two nations, while the Chinese basketball federation (CBA), governed – at least nominally – by the great Yao Ming, ironically one of the greatest players in the history of the same Rockets, has suspended any kind of relationship with the Houston franchise, until 'another yesterday (and thanks precisely to Yao) by far the most loved and followed by the Chinese.
A clear and severe position taken at the same time both by the daily regime, the People's Daily, both from all the Chinese sponsors linked in some way to the Rockets, from the shoe company Li Ning to the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, through Tencent Holdings, the NBA rights owner who – he has already announced – will block the broadcast of Texan matches on Chinese platforms until further notice.
To offend a fifth of the world's population with a tweet that was online less than an hour must have been something of a record for Morey who, to be honest, had been a "normal" citizen of the United States would have been more than legitimized in publicly sharing the position of the other fraction of Chinese people slyly cited by Tsai: the Hong Kong minority took to the streets to protect its sacrosanct rights of freedom, certainly not as a separatist movement.
Who was offended for convenience
Leaving aside for a moment the diatribes between Chinese from Hong Kong and Chinese from mainland China, it is easy to see that such a mass of people and sponsors offended by the comment of a manager of a foreign multinational – the Houston Rockets and consequently the NBA – could not fail to have catastrophic consequences on the economy of the company itself.
The first to run with great e hypocritical quickness to remedies was the direct leader of Daryl Morey, or the new owner of the Rockets Tilman Fertitta who simply reiterated that Morey's views did not represent those of the Rockets, emphasizing how Houston was not a political organization.
Zero support to his first employee (only at ESPN he said that "everything is fine between us"), zero defense of freedom of expression but rather, a suspected opening of the "political" tweet with a "Listen …" which reminded many of the title of his first book – obviously an autobiography – which came out recently and from the title Shut Up and Listen !. I wonder if, seeing the revenue chart fall precipitously in the last few hours due to Morey's tweet, the good Fertitta didn't want to start remedying with healthy cross-media marketing …
Listen ….@dmorey does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets. Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of @NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization. @espn https://t.co/yNyQFtwTTi
- Tilman Fertitta (@TilmanJFertitta) October 5, 2019
The official statements of James Harden and Russell Westbrook, the main players of the Rockets involved in the Asian tour in Japan, also came to the wheel: nothing surprising, rather than an apology "to the Chinese fans who love us so much" of which perhaps they didn't even know the real meaning, blatantly spelled out in front of journalists in the hope – vain – of the franchise and of the NBA to recover quickly the consensus think so abruptly.
The NBA, the most progressive of the pro-American leagues, was the protagonist of this international mess that most disappointed expectations, given the recent history – fromaffaire Donald Sterling onwards – also courageous official actions and stances to defend freedom of expression and oppressed social minorities with strong powers, such as removing the All-Star Game in Charlotte for an approved discriminatory law for a year from the state of North Carolina.
The official releases of the League (far too measured) released after the incident were criticized by many US politicians on both sides, including Democrat Beto O'Rourke and Republican Ted Cruz, while commissioner Adam Silver, these days in Tokyo with the Rockets, he did not comment on the content of Morey's infamous tweet, stating only that he could support "his freedom of expression". Ultimately and as always, the Latin proverb "pecunia non olet" explains human behavior more than many other words.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass releases statement from league on Rockets GM Daryl Morey’s situation. pic.twitter.com/GQyi1k7Qk4
- Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 7, 2019
Consequences of the Morey Gate
A mess in short, but if we know our chickens a bit we would say that the worst could already have passed and, in a world that thinks at supersonic speeds, in a week and after some further reparative press conference the damage will be roughly damned. Although, still having the whistles in his ears a Andrew Bogut during all the World Championships for a single tweet against Chinese swimmer Sun Yang, there is no need to put his hand on fire.
Daryl Morey, by declaration of the same owner, does not risk – as some feared – his job, but surely from today he will think twice about writing another tweet of any entity (even if this, apparently, was in support of his friends from Hong Kong). Meanwhile his Rockets will try to win at Saitama and Tokyo against the reigning Toronto champions in the next three games, running in the fabulous new pair of guards Harden-Westbrook and leaving behind this unpleasant diplomatic incident that caused them to lose a lot of sleep and a few million dollars a bit at all.
The NBA – estimating the value of the Chinese market of about 4.4 billion more important than any moral coherence, even that of freedom of expression – has the next few days to prepare the most politically appropriate texts to please the public and the Chinese government, with the Silver press conference scheduled in Shanghai on Wednesday 9 October ahead of the match between the Lakers of LeBron James and Anthony Davis and the Nets of Tsai (who seems actively involved in the peacemaker part).
On Friday 10 October, the NBA will ferry the two teams and the apologies of Adam Silver to Shenzhen, a young city in the Guangdong region just 15 kilometers from the border with Hong Kong and a controversial land for its particular position: many Chinese from Shenzhen work in the rich eastern metropolis now still blocked by protests, but live in mainland China where everything costs much less. With the only defect of being visually controlled by facial recognition technologies that Hong Kong has been fighting for for months and that Morey, albeit briefly, claimed.
With Twitter and Facebook blocked in China they would never have known, but someone (of the Chinese government?) On Twitter made a screenshot re-posting it on Sina Weibo, the Chinese Twitter. And so magically they all started chirping against the Rockets and the NBA. Which for its part has shown to have two weights and two measures: champion of justice at home, cynical calculator on the (rich) eastern front.
Or at least when the economic losses exceed the social impact gains.