As we get ready to kick off the NBA season on October 22, there is an ongoing controversy, drawing attention away from the actual game and its great players: a social media post. A since-deleted tweet by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey read “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” This tweet in support of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong has caused China to lash out at the NBA.
The Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers are currently in China to face off against one another in the NBA China Games. China cancelled several of the NBA community events and removed the marketing signage promoting the game. China also canceled the broadcast of the two preseason games in China and it was uncertain if the games would happen at all.
Several companies have stopped partnerships with the NBA, and at least two major Chinese retailers have removed all Houston Rockets merchandise from their websites.
The NBA’s presence in China is estimated to be worth $4 billion — so that is what is ultimately at stake. The Houston Rockets’ General Manager has since apologized for the controversial tweet but it seems the damage has already been done. Prior to this post, the Houston Rockets were the most popular NBA team in China due to former player Yao Ming — the most famous Chinese-born NBA player in history.
The brand of the Houston Rockets and of the NBA itself have clearly taken a costly hit due to one social media post. A prime example of how social media can impact your revenue. It will be interesting to see how it continues to unfold as we approach the start of the regular season.