China Central Television (CCTV) yesterday said that those who “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people will have to pay a price” after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey on Thursday announced that he was stepping down.
CCTV suspended NBA broadcasts in October last year after Morey wrote on Twitter “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” a reference to pro-democracy protests in the territory.
The broadcaster on Saturday last week abruptly ended the year-long blackout for Game 5 of the NBA Finals, eventually won by the Los Angeles Lakers, and now days later Morey has departed after guiding basketball operations at the Houston Rockets since the 2007-2008 season.
In his statement, the 48-year-old did not mention the controversy which upended relations between the NBA and China, the league’s most lucrative overseas market, but in a short reaction, CCTV seemed to claim that Morey may have been forced out.
“We reiterate that any words and deeds that attempt to hurt the feelings of the Chinese people will have to pay a price,” CCTV said in a statement on its Web site, which was also read out on air.
The broadcaster said that it wished Morey well, but used a phrase that in Chinese is usually reserved for people who have died.
Morey’s departure made major news in China, where the NBA commands a huge following and his Twitter posting had caused uproar, and demands that he be sacked.
On Sina Weibo yesterday lunchtime the hashtag #Moreyresigns had 110 million views and was a top-25 trending topic.
NBA executives had initially defended Morey’s right to freedom of expression, prompting numerous Chinese business partners and celebrities to cut ties.
The NBA in May appointed Michael Ma — the son of CCTV Sports executive Ma Guoli — as chief executive of NBA China, setting off speculation that his appointment could help mend ties.
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