HOUSTON – A group of fans at the Houston Rockets' season opener against Milwaukee held signs and wore shirts in support of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong on Thursday night.
Houston general manager Daryl Morey angered China with a since-deleted tweet in support of the protesters earlier this month.
Wednesday's opening-night games were not televised in China in the wake of Morey's tweet that caused tension between the NBA and Chinese officials.
Many in the group wore black T-shirts with white letters that read: "Fight for Freedom."
One man held a sign the read: "Thank you Morey," with a red heart after Morey's name. Another sign read: "No censorship in America" and a third declared: "Freedom is not FREE." Another man held a sign that said: "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong," which are the exact words included in Morey's tweet.
Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta quickly rebuked his GM after his tweet with a tweet saying that Morey does not speak for the team, but the damage was done. The Chinese Basketball Association, headed by former Rockets star Yao Ming, suspended its ties to the Rockets over the tweet.
Events in China promoting a Lakers-Nets series were canceled, NBA media partner Tencent said it was evaluating its plans to cover the league and some Chinese corporations have suspended relationships with the NBA.