Houston Rockets player Russell Westbrook is hailed as a hero in China after wearing a traditional Chinese coat to a press conference amid intensifying row between Beijing and the NBA over Hong Kong protests
- Westbrook had already expressed his love for China before the appearance
- He wore a tunic jacket to meet reporters alongside James Harden yesterday
- Chinese fans loved his fashion and said the 30-year-old did the right thing
- Some urged him to join the Communist Party and play for the Chinese league
- His teammate Harden was also praised for wearing a Chinese-style bracelet
- Adam Silver reportedly rushed to Shanghai overnight to meet with officials
- State media continued to slam the NBA and 11 Chinese sponsors have pulled out
Houston Rockets player Russell Westbrook has been hailed as a hero in China after wearing a traditional Chinese-style coat amid an escalating row between Beijing and the NBA over comments made by his team manager about Hong Kong protests.
America’s National Basketball Association is facing unprecedented backlashes from Beijing after Daryl Morey, the general manager of Houston Rockets, showed his support for anti-government demonstrators in the former British colony.
NBA’s boss Adam Silver has reportedly rushed to Shanghai to have emergency meetings with Chinese officials in a bid to calm the spiralling row.
Westbrook and his teammate James Harden on Monday apologised to their Chinese fans and distanced themselves from Morey’s now-deleted post.
But 30-year-old Westbrook, known as Wei Shao in China, took one step further and donned a burgundy tunic jacket to a press conference yesterday in an apparent bid to appease his supporters in the Far East.
Wearing a Chinese-style top, Houston Rockets’ Russell Westbrook attends a news conference after the team’s NBA preseason basketball game against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday
Westbrook, who made his first appearance as a Rockets player, had already apologised to his Chinese supporters after his team’s manager showed his support to Hong Kong protesters
Westbrook, 30, has been highly praised in China after choosing to wear a Chinese-style tunic jacket in a press conference (right) after his debut show against the Toronto Raptors (left)
Houston Rockets was one of the most popular basketball teams in China after Chinese player Yao Ming was recruited by it in 2002.
Footage of Westbrook in the classic top has gone viral on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter.
Westbrook was meeting the press alongside Harden, who wore normal casual clothing, after debuting as a member of the Rockets in a pre-season game against the Toronto Raptors in Tokyo yesterday.
Web users have applauded his ‘bravery’ in standing against the American values he was brought up with and the mounting criticism he is facing from home over his apology.
One fan gushed: ‘Wei Shao, add oil. Join Harden to get the NBA champion that belongs to you.’
Another reader complimented: ‘Wei Shao is the best point guard in history.’
A third person said: ‘I love Wei Shao’s stubbornness so much.’
Some Chinese fans have suggested Westbrook (pictured yesterday) play for Chinese teams
Others have urged him to join the Communist Party of China because of his love for the nation
Many suggested that Westbrook should join the Communist Party of China, such as one follower who wrote: ‘Who can write the application letter for him to join the party?’
Others urged the 6ft3in athlete to abandon the NBA and join a Chinese basketball team.
One such admirer enthused: ‘I like Wei Shao. Come to play for CBA (the Chinese Basketball Association)!’
Beijing has pressed companies including Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways and America’s Apple to take the government’s side against the protests in Hong Kong. Pictured, demonstrators are arrested by police during a clash at a demonstration in Wan Chai on Sunday
Harden has also been highly praised on Weibo after eagle-eyed users spotted him wearing a Chinese bracelet while making the apology with Westbrook on Monday.
One influential fan who has more than 500,000 followers on Weibo said Harden and Westbrook should be treated separately from the rest of the NBA members.
Citing a Chinese proverb, the user commented on a picture of the pair making the mea culpa: ‘A speck of mouse dung spoils a whole pot of porridge. Harden was even wearing the coin-shaped bracelet from his China trip during the interview.’
Westbrook and his teammate James Harden apologise to Beijing through the press on Monday after their team manager Morey lent his support to anti-government protesters in Hong Kong
Harden has also been praised after fans spotted him wearing a Chinese bracelet (circled)
Standing next to Westbrook, Harden told the press: ‘We apologise. You know, we love China, we love playing there. For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year.’
‘They show us the most important love. We appreciate them as a fan base. We love everything there about them and we appreciate the support that they give us individually and as organisation.’
The row between China and the NBA began last Friday when Daryl Morey posted an image captioned ‘Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong’ on Twitter.
His Tweet caused an instant outrage in China because the country views the four months of unrest in Hong Kong as a ‘separatist movement’ masterminded by ‘Western forces’ against the Communist regime.
Mr Morey deleted his tweet and apologised to ‘Rockets fans and friends of mine in China’.
NBA then called Mr Morey’s post ‘regrettable’.
‘I did not intend my tweet to cause any offence to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China,’ Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey (pictured) tweeted as he apologised to Beijing
Morey’s initial tweet included an image captioned: ‘Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong’
‘Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong’ is one of the slogans used by anti-government activists in Hong Kong. The city has been rocked by mass street protests for four months
But Adam Silver, the Commissioner of the NBA, backed Mr Morey’s initial tweet and promised to protect his employees’ right to free speech – remarks that further infuriated Beijing.
China’s state broadcaster CCTV, which owns the right to air the NBA games in the country, today released another statement, once again threatening to stop airing the two pre-season games.
Eleven Chinese companies have announced to stop their collaborations with the NBA.
Tencent, which owns the digital streaming rights for the NBA in China, also said they would suspend the broadcasting of the games.
The Chinese internet giant had signed a five-year deal, reported to be $1.5 billion, with the basketball association for the streaming right. The NBA postponed a scheduled media sessions for the match.
Adam Silver, Commissioner of the NBA, has shown his support for freedom of speech amid the controversy surrounding a post by Daryl Morey regarding the demonstrations in Hong Kong
Chinese organisers scrapped a fan event on the eve of the planned pre-season game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets in Shanghai.
‘We’re strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver’s claim to support Mr Morey’s right to freedom of expression,’ the station said yesterday.
‘We believe that any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability are not within the scope of freedom of speech.’
Silver was meant to arrive in Shanghai on Wednesday ahead of a scheduled NBA pre-season game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets.
But the 57-year-old head of the NBA had to head to the metropolis overnight, reported Chinese news portal Sina.
It is likely that Silver (left) will or has met with his Chinese counterpart Yao Ming (right), a former Houston Rockets player, who is said to be ‘extremely angry’ over Morey’s remarks
Footage shared by Sina as well as China’s state media Global Times on social media shows Silver dressed in a black suit walking into a lift. Both outlets claim the video was taken in Shanghai.
In a post, Global Times also condemned that Silver ‘still hasn’t apologised’.
It is likely that Silver will or has met with his Chinese counterpart Yao Ming, a former Houston Rockets player, who is said to be ‘extremely angry’ over Morey’s remarks.
Shanghai-born Mr Yao, 39, played a key role in the popularisation of NBA in the huge market after being picked by the Rockets in the NBA draft in 2002. The 7ft5in former centre is now the head of the Chinese Basketball Association.
Another clip shared by both media outlets show workers in Shanghai taking down road-side advertisements for the pre-season game.
Chinese workers are seen ripping down an NBA billboard advertisement on Wednesday after the nation’s state broadcasters vowed not to air this week’s preseason games in China
A worker can be seen taking down a billboard advertising an NBA basketball game scheduled to take place on Thursday between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets in Shanghai
The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets are scheduled to play another game in Shenzhen on Saturday.
In a Communist talk show from CCTV yesterday, an anchor called Silver’s pro-democracy remarks ‘a joke’.
The anchor said freedom of speech did not mean Silver had the liberty to make ‘absurd comments’. He also blasted Silver for not understanding the meaning of free speech.
Yesterday, another Chinese state-controlled newspaper Global Times issued a stern warning to global businesses in response to the controversy surrounding NBA and Daryl Morey, telling worldwide firms to stay away from politics.
Global Times claimed it was ‘ridiculous’ to suggest that Mr Morey was entitled to free speech.
‘The incident shows an expanding worldwide culture gap,’ it wrote.