For a while, it was unclear whether Rockets general manager Daryl Morey would keep his job after tweeting support for Hong Kong protesters, who are trying to maintain and expand their freedom.
Eventually, NBA commissioner Adam Silver released a second statement that included:
However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way.
Apparently, Silver issued that edict while facing even more pressure than we realized.
Silver, via Sean Gregory of TIME:
“We made clear that we were being asked to fire him, by the Chinese government, by the parties we dealt with, government and business,” Silver said. “We said there’s no chance that’s happening. There’s no chance we’ll even discipline him.”
Silver said the league is “not only willing” to cope with losses of millions in revenues, “but we are. The losses have already been substantial. Our games are not back on the air in China as we speak, and we’ll see what happens next.”
“I don’t know where we go from here,” said Silver in his first U.S. interview about the league’s emerging conflict with China since he returned home from the country. “The financial consequences have been and may continue to be fairly dramatic.”
“I don’t know where we go from here” are scary words. There’s a lot of money to be made in China, and the NBA is a business.
That’s why the decision not to fire or discipline Morey – while commendable – goes only so far.
Many around the NBA fear the ongoing Chinese response. Nobody wants to further harm that economic relationship. Even Morey deleted and walked back his tweet.
This is a consequence of dealing with China. The NBA is still figuring out how to compromise its stated values with its clear financial interests.
At least the answer stopped short of punishing Morey.