James Harden and the Houston Rockets are sorry general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support of protesters in Hong Kong and are officially asking forgiveness from Chinese fans who were offended over the weekend. The superstar guard issued a public apology days after the Rockets themselves distanced the team, which has a large fanbase in China, from a tweet Morey sent out in support of a protest against mainland China.
Morey has since apologized and the NBA has supported his right to express his opinion despite what Adam Silver described as the “economic” impact of the tweet. But later on Monday a report from Japan contained another apology from the Rockets, coming from its biggest star: Harden.
The South China Morning Post reported that Harden apologized to China and expressed his love for the country while standing next to new Rockets guard Russell Westbrook.
In Tokyo, where the team is playing two exhibition matches this week, Harden distanced himself from the controversy.
“We apologise. We love China,” he said, standing alongside fellow Rockets guard Russell Westbrook.
“We love playing there. Both of us, we go there once or twice a year. They show us most support so we appreciate them.”
Harden is clearly trying to win back fans who were offended by Morey’s support of Hong Kong separatists, as many other apparatus of the Rockets have tried to do in the wake of the now-deleted tweet. The message to Chinese fans may ease tensions, but thus far the relationship between the NBA, the Rockets and the CBA seems to be in flux.
Exhibition games between two NBA G League teams and the CBA were cancelled on Monday, and the association has made no indication that it will rescind its suspension of the relationship between it and the NBA. As is often the case with these kind of social media disturbances, time may be the important factor in things returning to normal. Right now it seems apologies have not been enough.