Rockets’ Harden is ‘sorry’ over GM’s HK tweet

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey
Updated 08 October 2019

Rockets’ Harden is ‘sorry’ over GM’s HK tweet

  • China’s state broadcaster said it was yanking Rockets games from the air

TOKYO: Houston Rockets star James Harden on Monday apologized to China over a tweet by the team’s general manager backing Hong Kong’s democracy protests that cost the franchise TV exposure and sponsorship in the lucrative Chinese market.

The team and the NBA were forced into defensive mode as China’s state broadcaster said it was yanking Rockets games from the air and sponsors abandoned them.

The controversy quickly spread across the Pacific, as commentators and even a presidential candidate rounded on the league for kowtowing to authoritarian Beijing.

In Tokyo, where the team is playing two exhibition matches this week, Harden distanced himself from the controversy.

“We apologize. 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.”

The furor comes after general manager Daryl Morey — whose Rockets have had a huge following in China since they signed Yao Ming in 2002 — posted a tweet Friday featuring the message “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” On Monday he tried to calm the water.

“I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China,” he tweeted.

“I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.”

“I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention,” he added.

Semi-autonomous Hong Kong has been battered by four months of increasingly violent pro-democracy protests.

The rallies were ignited by a now-scrapped plan to allow extraditions to mainland China, fueling fears of an erosion of liberties in Hong Kong under the 50-year “one country, two systems” model China agreed before the 1997 handover from Britain.

The NBA issued its own statement, saying it recognized Morey’s views “have offended so many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable.”

“While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them,” the statement issued by chief communications officer Mike Bass said.

But a Chinese-language version of the statement posted on Weibo went further, saying the NBA was “deeply disappointed by the inappropriate remarks.”

In the US, the NBA found itself under fire for its apology, which presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, a Texan, called “an embarrassment.”

“The only thing the NBA should be apologizing for is their blatant prioritization of profits over human rights,” he tweeted.

The NBA’s statement also did little to mollify fans in China, with furious comments among the 15,000 responses on Weibo.

“This is an apology?” one user wrote. “Get out of China,” added another.

The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets are due to play pre-season games in Shanghai and Shenzhen later this week.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV and Tencent Holdings, which streams NBA games in China, have both said they will halt Rockets broadcasts.

And sponsors including sportswear brand Li Ning and the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank announced they were cutting ties.


Lebanese journalist Roula Khalaf becomes first female editor of Financial Times

Updated 12 November 2019

Lebanese journalist Roula Khalaf becomes first female editor of Financial Times

  • Khalaf has served as deputy editor, foreign editor and Middle East editor during her more than two decades at FT
  • Khalaf will join Katharine Viner at the Guardian as one of the few women to edit major newspapers in Britain

LONDON: Lebanese journalist Roula Khalaf will become the first woman to edit the Financial Times in its 131-year history after Lionel Barber, Britain’s most senior financial journalist, said he would step down.
Barber said on Tuesday he would leave in January after 14 years as editor and 34 years at the Nikkei-owned newspaper, which had one million paying readers in 2019, with digital subscribers accounting for more than 75% of total circulation.
Khalaf has served as deputy editor, foreign editor and Middle East editor during her more than two decades at the salmon-pink FT and in recent years has sought to increase diversity in the newsroom and attract more female readers, while also becoming the publication’s first Arab editor.
“It’s a great honor to be appointed editor of the FT, the greatest news organization in the world.
“I look forward to building on Lionel Barber’s extraordinary achievements,” said Khalaf, whose earlier writing for Forbes magazine had earned her a small role in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.
Her article described the leading character Jordan Belfort as sounding like a twisted version of Robin Hood who takes from the rich and gives to himself and his merry band of brokers.
Khalaf will join Katharine Viner at the Guardian as one of the few women to edit major newspapers in Britain and one of few leading female editors in the world after Jill Abramson left the New York Times.
Before joining the FT in 1995, Khalaf worked at Forbes in New York and earned a master’s at Columbia University and graduated from Syracuse University.
Tsuneo Kita, chairman of Japan’s Nikkei which bought the FT from Pearson in 2015, said in a statement Khalaf was chosen for her sound judgment and integrity.
“We look forward to working closely with her to deepen our global media alliance.”
Nikkei’s Kita described Barber as a strategic thinker and true internationalist, adding he was very sad to see him leave.
“However, both of us agree it is time to open a new chapter,” he said.
During his time as editor, Barber engineered a successful push into online subscription that protected the title as others battled an unprecedented collapse in advertising revenue, as well as managing the move to a new owner.