Daryl Morey backtracks after Hong Kong tweet causes Chinese backlash
The general manager of the Houston Rockets basketball team has apologised after a tweet in support of Hong Kong protesters led to a Chinese backlash.
Daryl Morey's original tweet included an image captioned: "Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong."
But the coach backpedalled after a fierce criticism from Chinese fans, sponsors and commercial partners.
Chinese broadcasters and streaming platforms said they would no longer broadcast Rockets games.
The Rockets and the National Basketball Association in the US distanced themselves from the tweet.
And in a follow-up statement, Mr Morey said he had reconsidered his position. "I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event," he wrote.
"I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.
"I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors…I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention.
"My tweets are my own and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA."
But the backtracking has also been criticised. Former US presidential hopeful – and Rockets fan – Ted Cruz accused the NBA of "shamefully retreating" in pursuit of profit.
Hong Kong has seen months of protests – sparked by an extradition law that has since been withdrawn – that have grown increasingly violent.
Mr Morey's original tweet, sent on Friday, caused uproar in China.
On Sunday, the Chinese Basketball Association suspended cooperation with the Houston Rockets, as did Chinese sportswear brand Li-Ning.
The club's sponsor in China, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, suspended cooperation.
And Chinese state broadcaster CCTV and Tencent Holdings, which streams NBA games in China, both said they would stop broadcasting Rockets matches.
NBA games draw huge viewership in China, with millions watching games primarily through streaming platforms.
The Rockets have been popular since the team signed Chinese star Yao Ming in 2002.
Both the Rockets and the NBA were quick to distance themselves from Mr Morey's initial tweet.
Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta tweeted that Morey doesn't speak for the team, which he said was "not a political organisation".
The NBA described the comments as "regrettable" and said "we have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force".
However, the NBA drew criticism from both Democrat and Republican politicians, who accused the organisation of bowing to Beijing instead of supporting democracy.
Mr Cruz said he was proud to see Mr Morey "call out the Chinese Communist Party's repressive treatment of protestors in Hong Kong".