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Owner of NBA’s Rockets distances team from exec’s Hong Kong comment

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Agence France-Presse

Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has moved to distance the NBA club with a big Chinese fan base from general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet about Hong Kong protests.

Morey, who is in Japan with the Rockets as they prepare for two exhibition games against the NBA champion Toronto Raptors in Saitama city, posted a since-deleted tweet on Friday featuring an image with the message “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”

Fertitta responded with a tweet saying Morey did not speak for the club.

“Listen…. @dmorey does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets. Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the @NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization,” he posted.

In a later interview with ESPN, Fertitta insisted that his relationship with Morey remained strong.

“I have the best general manager in the league,” Fertitta told ESPN. “Everything is fine with Daryl and me. We got a huge backlash, and I wanted to make clear that (the organization) has no (political) position. We’re here to play basketball and not to offend anybody.”

Semi-autonomous Hong Kong has been battered by four months of increasingly violent pro-democracy protests.

The rallies were ignited by a now-scrapped plan to allow extraditions to mainland China, fuelling fears of an erosion of liberties in Hong Kong under the 50-year “one country, two systems” model China agreed before the 1997 handover from Britain.

The Rockets have been a popular NBA franchise in China since the club drafted Chinese star Yao Ming with the top pick in the 2002 draft.

The towering center averaged 19 points and 9.2 rebounds in eight seasons with the team and became president of the Chinese Basketball Association in 2017.