Oct 10, 2019

Major Nike stores in China no longer selling Houston Rockets gear

A Chinese flag is seen placed on merchandise in the NBA flagship retail store this week in Beijing, China. Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Merchandise from the NBA's Houston Rockets has been pulled from several Nike stores in China in the wake of a controversy over a tweet by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of anti-government protests in Hong Kong, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: China is Nike's top source of revenue growth, per Reuters. The Houston Rockets have an especially large following in China thanks to the success of Yao Ming, a former Rockets player who now heads the China Basketball Association.

The impact: So far, China has blacked out preseason games and condemned Morey's tweet. Morey has since taken the tweet down and stated that it was not his intention to offend the NBA's Chinese fans.

NBA's league business in China is said to be worth more than $4 billion, per Reuters. 11 out of 13 Chinese businesses have cut ties with the league.

Communication from players is tight-lipped as well. In Saitama, Japan, CNN's Christina Macfarlane was cut off by NBA officials at a press conference after she asked Houston Rockets players how they feel about speaking out on social issues in the future.

Go deeper: The basketball tweet that set off a geopolitical firestorm

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Lebron James spins up another PR nightmare for the NBA's China controversy

Photo: Zhong Zhi/Getty Images

In his first comments since the Lakers returned from playing 2 exhibition games in China, LeBron James added another chapter to the NBA's ongoing saga — and created a PR nightmare.

Driving the news: James told reporters at Staples Center that Rockets GM Daryl Morey was "misinformed or not really educated" when he sent the pro-Hong Kong tweet heard 'round the world.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Oct 15, 2019

NBA suspends media availabilities for rest of its China trip

The NBA flagship store in Beijing. Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

The NBA cancelled all media availabilities for the rest of its China trip ahead of this weekend's game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets in Shenzhen, reports ESPN.

"We have decided not to hold media availability for our teams for the remainder of our trip in China. They have been placed into a complicated and unprecedented situation while abroad and we believe it would be unfair to ask them to address these matters in real time."
— The NBA's official statement, per ESPN
Go deeperArrowOct 11, 2019

Mike Pence blasts the NBA in speech on China

Vice President Pence. Photo: Stringer/Getty Images

Vice President Pence denounced the NBA in a speech on Thursday, saying the league is "siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech ... acting like a wholly owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime."

The big picture: Pence's accusations come after the general manager of the Houston Rockets incensed Chinese leaders with his support of pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong. NBA commissioner Adam Silver then backed GM Daryl Morey up, saying the league is "not willing to compromise" with China on freedom of expression for league employees.

Go deeperArrowOct 24, 2019