Chinese NBA fans ‘wish Morey well’ after resigning

By Wang Qi and Deng Xiaoci Source: Published: 2020/10/16 12:12:49 Last Updated: 2020/10/16 22:08:32

Photo: CFP

Four days after Chinese fans watched the Los Angeles Lakers become champions on China Central Television (CCTV), Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey, whose team was beaten by the Lakers in the Western conference semifinals, resigned.

"It is the result he deserves," many Chinese sports fans said on Sina Weibo, after news that Morey left his post went viral on Friday, saying it was overdue as Morey obstructed ties between China and the NBA with his irresponsible remarks.

The Rockets confirmed the news with the Global Times on Friday in a statement, after ESPN broke the news.

A spokesperson for the CCTV sports channel said Friday morning that they have no comment about Morey's resignation, but emphasized that any words and deeds that attempt to hurt the feelings of the Chinese people will have to pay a price.

"We wish him [Morey] well," CCTV said in its statement, which is a Chinese expression for seeing someone off when you don't like them very much.

CCTV resumed broadcasts of NBA games on October 10 after a one-year suspension, following Morey's since-deleted tweet in support of Hong Kong rioters. A CCTV spokesperson told the media that the rebroadcasts were a normal arrangement considering the popularity of basketball in China, and domestic fans want to watch the games.

In October last year, Morey posted on Twitter an image saying, "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong" - a slogan used by Hong Kong rioters. He quickly attracted the ire of Chinese people and NBA fans. 

Online carnival 

"Morey stepping down" became a trending topic on Sina Weibo, with over 67 million views in two hours. Many said they believe that Morey's prejudice and irresponsible words were one of the reasons which hindered the previously fruitful cultural and sports exchanges between China and the US.

Su Qun, a senior NBA commentator, said in a Weibo post, "Everyone is happy based on this result."

An online poll on Sina Weibo showed that over 19,000 people, or 44 percent of 43,000 respondents, said they feel "very happy about the news," while over 16,000 netizens said his resignation should have come much earlier. 

The Houston Rockets should have announced the decision after they were knocked out by the Lakers in the playoffs, Su said in his post. Many NBA fans on Twitter believe the Rockets will undergo a rebuilding period after a championship drought under Morey.

The NBA will shut its doors to Morey for a long time, maybe forever. Any sports league or organization should strictly discipline their employees and prevent politics from getting in its way, Su told the Global Times on Friday.  

Some netizens speculated that the dismal business results of the NBA amid the pandemic and pressure from NBA senior personnel might have been the reason for Morey's resignation. However, NBA China told the Global Times on Friday that they would not comment at the present time. 

"The Rockets were one of the most popular NBA teams in China due to Yao Ming, but with GM Daryl Morey, the Rockets have become the least marketable team for Chinese sports fans. He's done a 'great' job!" said a netizen sarcastically. 

"I hope his resignation will bring back the game to fans, as basketball should not be polluted by politics," another said. 

Reminder to others

Some observers believe that Morey's self-inflicted wound serves as a reminder to other companies and organizations that might have less respect and understanding to Chinese people. 

Facts show that hurting Chinese people's national sentiments will be punished by the market, and it is decided by the country's 1.3 billion people.

Italian brand Dolce & Gabbana (D&G) in August 2019 expected sales in China to fall in the 2019-2020 fiscal year after a slowdown from 2018 to 2019, signaling that the brand is still struggling to shake off the fallout from a video that insulted Chinese people in November 2018. 

"A franchise's fate should not be determined by some individual's political preferences," Su said.

Wang Dazhao, a Beijing-based sports commentator, told the Global Times on Friday that as general manager, Morey's professional performance - or lack thereof - is also an important reason for leaving rather than anything to do with China.

US media reported that Morey decided to step down after the Rockets lost in the NBA playoffs last month, reaching an agreement with owner Tilman Fertitta. According to ESPN, Morey took the initiative of stepping away as he wants to spend more time with his family, especially his two college-age children took a gap year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Analysts believe that no team in the NBA would sack its manager in his first year after a five-year extension due to a huge compensation. 

While Morey may want to explore what else might interest him professionally, his role in exposing the importance of the Chinese market for the NBA still factored into the decision, US media reported. 

Some observers believe that Morey brought bad luck to the NBA, months after the league's long-serving commissioner David Stern and iconic superstar Kobe Bryant passed away. After the league restarted amid the pandemic, the "Black Lives Matter" movement disturbed the league, in which black players are in the majority. 

Besides Morey's incident, sports events and exchanges around the world have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In terms of the NBA, Chinese fans had lost their beloved game, and the NBA had temporarily lost the Chinese market, Wang noted. 

Wang said Chinese NBA fans should not assume that Morey's resignation will immediately promote exchanges between the US and China, despite CCTV showing its sincerity in its recent decision to resume broadcasts of the NBA finals before Morey's resignation.

Morey's comments about Hong Kong do not align with his position, and it is wrong to politicize sports. Not only in China, but also in the US, his comments were not supported by the majority, Wang said.

"If the NBA behaves like Morey, openly discussing the internal affairs of other countries, is the NBA still a sports league that promotes cultural exchanges?" asked Wang, indicating that more sincerity from the US are needed.  

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