Houston Rockets merchandise was removed from various Nike stores in China amid a free speech uproar sparked by the team’s general manager tweet in which he expressed support for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, a Thursday report states.
According to Reuters, managers from five Nike stores in Beijing and Shanghai said Rockets’ sneakers and other clothing items were pulled after they received a directive from senior management that the team’s gear was to be taken off the shelves.
Three Nike stores in Shenzhen also kept Rockets merchandise off the shelves, as well as NBA products in general, staff told Reuters by phone. Three Nike stores in Chengdu, a bustling inland city in southwest China, also removed Rockets products.
A specialist NBA store at Super Brand Mall, a major shopping center in the Shanghai financial district of Lujiazui, has also removed all Rockets-related merchandise.
“Other stuff, there hasn’t been any impact, and no one has said we need to withdraw it,” said a store manager, laughing. “If they say that all NBA stuff has to be withdrawn then our store will go bankrupt.”
Chinese e-commerce sites such as Alibaba and JD.com have also scrubbed Houston Rockets merchandise from their platforms, according to the report.
The development is the latest fallout prompted by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who tweeted on Sunday that “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” a reference to the on-going demonstrations in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
A short time after Morey posted that statement, the NBA said it was “regrettable” that the deleted tweet offended many in China. And all that followed several companies in China, including some of the NBA’s major business partners there, lashing out over Morey’s original tweet.
“I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China,” Morey wrote on Twitter Monday. “I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. 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 have provided and 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.”
However, Morey kowtowing to China failed to prevent the NBA’s partners in the communist country from suspending their activities with the league.
“Out of the 25 official partners listed on the NBA China website, 13 are Chinese businesses. So far, 11 of those companies have distanced themselves from the league amid escalating tensions between China and the NBA,” CNBC reports.
Chinese companies that have cut ties include, Ctrip.com, Anta Sports, Changhong, Meiling, and Dicos.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.