The Houston Rockets' general manager apologized on Sunday for a tweet expressing support for Hong Kong protesters that has sparked a harsh backlash from China's official basketball association.
"I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China ...," Daryl Morey tweeted on Sunday. "I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives."
On Friday, Morey took to Twitter to show solidarity with a months-long anti-government protest in the Chinese territory. He sent a tweet that read: "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong."
It was quickly deleted, but not before it attracted notice in both China and the U.S.
Soon after, the Rockets' owner, Tilman Fertitta, sought to distance the team from the controversy, tweeting that Morley "does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets" and that the team is "NOT a political organization."
And on Sunday, the Chinese Basketball Association — headed by former Rockets center and Hall of Famer Yao Ming, announced that it was suspending cooperation with the Houston team. Tencent, a media partner of the NBA in China with a five-year streaming deal worth $1.5 billion, and China's state television also said they wouldn't be airing Rockets games.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement late Sunday that Morey's original tweet was "regrettable."
"We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the N.B.A. can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together," he said.
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz took exception to the apology, tweeting, "As a lifelong @HoustonRockets fan, I was proud to see @dmorey call out the Chinese Communist Party's repressive treatment of protesters," adding in a separate tweet, "We're better than this; human rights shouldn't be assisting Chinese communist censorship."