Prominent Chinese shopping websites recently sent Houston Rockets products to ghost mode after the team’s general manager shared his opinions on the Hong Kong protests. JD.com, Alibaba (BABA) and its two sister websites- Taobao and Tmall have stopped featuring the team’s merchandise altogether.
NBA team manager’s opinions become the issue
Alibaba and JD.com are two of the biggest e-retailers in China and they have decided to show their solidarity with the Chinese government by removing products from Houston Rockets. Searching for Rockets and Houston Rockets on the sites doesn’t bring any results. This is true for both websites and their sister sites as well. Spokespeople from both companies have not made any comments regarding the same publicly but the financial backlash seems evident.
The removal of products comes right after Daryl Morey, the general manager of Rockets, tweeted in support of Hong King Protesters. He wrote, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong” and the government in China seems to have taken some serious offense with the tweets. Morey deleted the tweet soon after posting it and then continued to write a new tweet in hopes of burying the controversy. The Chinese Consulate-General based in Houston criticized the tweet.
Chinese Basketball community reacts
The Chinese Basketball Association also spoke out strongly against its content. It has even suspended cooperation with the Houston team. Note that the Yao Ming is the chair of the association. He formerly played in the NBA with the Rockets and helped the team grow a strong fan base in China. The association went as far ahead as canceling four games scheduled for later this month in Suzhou. It also included some Rocket matches.
Interestingly, Morey’s comments were also slammed by Joseph Tsai, who is the co-founder of Alibaba as well as the owner of rival NBA team Brooklyn Nets. He wrote an open letter on Facebook, describing in detail how the Chinese government doesn’t like any threats to its territories, whether domestic or foreign. He even called the protests in Hong Kong a “separatist movement” with the territory of China.
Adding more, he wrote that Morey’s tweets will sour the relationship that the NBA has with Chinese fans. He wrote,
“I don’t know Daryl personally. I am sure he’s a fine NBA general manager, and I will take at face value his subsequent apology that he was not as well informed as he should have been.”
But he also added that his hurtful comments will need a long time to heal.