China’s state-run Global Times publication celebrated the resignation of Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey, who publicly supported Hong Kong’s anti-communist movement last year, on Friday, speculating that Morey is cursed and his “bad luck” may have resulted in the death of Kobe Bryant.
Morey became world-famous in October 2019 after posting a statement on Twitter reading “fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” At the time, the city was in its fourth month of large, peaceful protests against Beijing, specifically rejecting a proposed law that would have allowed China to prosecute anyone in the nominally autonomous Hong Kong for violations of communist laws that do not apply there. The Communist Party has aggressively rejected protesters, branding them violent rioters and demanding other world powers condemn them, as well. Most of the free world has, instead, criticized China for enabling police brutality against peaceful demonstrators and violating the terms of the Hong Kong Basic Law, its constitution.
Morey’s largely benign call for democracy triggered a ban on broadcasts of NBA games in China for one year and calls from within the Communist Party for the NBA to fire him. Morey issued an apology amid pressure from the league, reading in part, “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.”
Morey resigned from his position with the Houston Rockets this week after nearly a decade and a half with the team. China’s state-run Global Times published an article Friday celebrating his departure, claiming that a poll on the Party-controlled Weibo social media outlet showed that thousands of people felt “very happy” that he was leaving and that many believed he deserved to lose his job for defending democratic values.
The Times also made a bizarre connection between Morey and the deaths of two American basketball icons, former NBA commissioner David Stern and legendary player Kobe Bryant.
“Some observers believe that Morey brought bad luck to the NBA, months after the league’s long-serving commissioner David Stern and iconic superstar Kobe Bryant passed away,” the state publication noted. “After the league restarted amid the pandemic, the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement disturbed the league, in which black players are in the majority.”
Stern, a longtime commissioner, died at age 77 in January. Bryant’s death was far more shocking to the world, as he was 41 at the time of his death and perished in a helicopter accident, along with his young daughter.
There is no known correlation between Morey and either death.
The Global Times also published remarks shared on Weibo by an alleged Chinese NBA commentator, Su Qun, who said of Morey’s departure, “everyone is happy based on this result.”
“The NBA will shut its doors to Morey for a long time, maybe forever. Any sports league or organization should strictly discipline their employees and prevent politics from getting in its way, Su told the Global Times on Friday,” the newspaper added.
The Times concluded that Morey’s resignation should scare other international businesses and leagues out of ever questioning China’s long record of human rights atrocities in public.
“Facts show that hurting Chinese people’s national sentiments will be punished by the market, and it is decided by the country’s 1.3 billion people,” the Times asserted.
CCTV, the Chinese state broadcaster that typically airs NBA games and began to do so again last week, also weighed in on Friday, condemning Morey for having allegedly “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.”
“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 the return of the NBA to its airways.
“The broadcaster said it wished Morey well, but used a phrase that in Chinese is usually reserved for people who have died,” Hong Kong’s RTHK News noted.
The NBA returns to Chinese screens during a time of significant ratings decline in America.
Speculation in the United States also surrounded the announcement of Morey’s departure, particularly given that it occurred nearly a year after the Hong Kong controversy. ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski — who replied to an email from the office of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) on China’s toxic relationship with the NBA with “fuck you” in July — reported that the Rockets had not fired Morey and that Morey himself was seeking the exit, not the Houston franchise. Some reports suggested Morey would remain in the Rockets family in an “advisory” capacity.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver revealed last year during the controversy that the Communist Party had pressured him to get the Rockets to fire Morey.
“We made clear that we were being asked to fire him, by the Chinese government, by the parties we dealt with, government and business,” Silver said. “We said there’s no chance that’s happening. There’s no chance we’ll even discipline him.”