Houston Rockets merchandise disappeared from several Nike stores in Chinese cities after the controversy about a tweet from the general manager supporting the Hong Kong protests that said: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”
This highlights a conflict with doing business in China…free speech doesn’t exist in China so the Chinese told the Rockets to “correct the error” according to CNBC:
The general manager deleted his tweet and tweeted out an apology:
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. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.”
“I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China.”
Reuters interviewed managers at the Beijing and Shanghai Nike stores that a memo from management called for all Houston Rockets merchandise to be removed.
Even though the Rockets general manager backed down and apologized for his tweet, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league backed the right of the general manager to exercise his free speech.
The NBA is still scheduled to have an exhibition game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets in Shanghai on Thursday night.
With NBA business in China worth more than $4 billion, this is important for both the NBA and Nike who also sees China as its top source of revenue growth.
Three Nike stores in Shenzhen kept Rockets and NBA merchandse off their shelves.
Citizens of Hong Kong have protested for over four months about the increasing influence from China.
At what point do the businesses like Nike and the NBA sacrifice everything and tell China to shove it?