A Houston Rockets press official on Thursday swatted down a reporter’s questions in Japan to star players James Harden and Russell Westbrook about the fallout from general manager Daryl Morey’s pro-Hong Kong protest tweet.
“The NBA has always been a league that prides itself on its players and its coaches being able to speak out openly about political and societal affairs,” the CNN journalist began her inquiry. “I just wonder after the events of this week and the fallout we’ve seen whether you’d both feel differently about speaking out that way in the future.”
Before Harden or Westbrook could respond, a Rockets media wrangler intercepted the question, video tweeted by a reporter for The Athletic shows.
“Excuse me, we’re taking basketball questions only,” the team representative said.
When the journalist countered that the question was “legitimate,” the press official argued, “It’s been answered. We’re taking basketball questions only.”
Harden, whose Rockets played the Raptors in Japan, has previously apologized for Morey’s comments.
“We apologize,” he told reporters on Monday. “We love China. We love playing there.”
Morey wrote on Friday, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” in reference to months-long protests in the region against the Chinese government.
Morey has since deleted and rushed to clarify the tweet, but the damage was done as deep-pocketed Chinese companies rushed to sever their ties with the team — and re-evaluate their standing with the league itself.
The tensions have only been inflamed by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s public support of Morey’s right to free speech.
NBA fans in the States have followed Morey’s lead, launching anti-China protests at Philadelphia 76ers and Washington Wizards games this week — only to be ejected by arena security.
Earlier in the Thursday press conference, the same CNN reporter was able to get in a question about the controversy to Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni, video from The Athletic reporter shows.
“It’s a tough situation,” he said. “I coach basketball, I’m not a diplomat.”
With Post wires