Even the swoosh is feeling the heat from the fallout over Rockets GM Daryl Morey’s pro-Hong Kong tweet.
The fallout over Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey’s tweet continues as at least 11 Nike stores in China have removed all Houston Rockets-related merchandise from their shelves, according to a Reuters report.
Much of the discussion around the economic consequences have understandably focused on the NBA itself and its reported $4 billion business in China, threatened since broadcasters like CCTV and Tencent have pulled games off TV and streaming, while other sponsors, including sports apparel brand Li-Ning, have paused their partnerships as well. Now the broader basketball economy is feeling the pressure.
Beyond the Nike stores, Chinese shoe brand Anta has reportedly suspended NBA contract renewal talks. The brand’s 10-year deal with Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson is worth up to $80 million. The Rockets are one of the most popular teams in China, thanks to former star player Yao Ming, but current team member James Harden is now one of the league’s most popular players there. Harden is also the face of Adidas basketball, after signing a $200 million deal in 2015. The 2018 MVP issued an apology to Chinese fans this week while his team was in Tokyo saying, “We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there.”
While this appears to be an escalation of the ongoing feud, The New York Times is reporting that Chinese officials are actually moving to calm tempers and NBA criticism, seeing the ongoing coverage of the dispute as potentially damaging to its own brand image. The top editor of the nationalist Chinese newspaper Global Times, Hu Xijin, told the Times, “I think this issue will gradually de-escalate—Global Times will not push to keep it hot. I also hope the American side won’t make any moves to escalate it.”