NBA and China: 77% of American Public Tell Houston Rockets Owner to Keep and Defend his Tweeting GM

Only 9% think GM should be fired; by 46-36% public supports Adam Silver’s handling; but 69% expressed concern that China has so much influence over an American professional League

South Orange NJ, October 25, 2019  — The American public strongly supports the Houston Rockets general manager’s tweet regarding Hong Kong and China’s rights conflict.   (Daryl Morey, the GM, tweeted support for the Hong Kong protesters seeking freedom from Chinese oversight.  The Chinese reacted with disdain and business with the NBA was threatened).

Only 9 percent of the public thought the Rockets GM, Daryl Morey, should be fired, with 77 percent saying the Rockets should keep him and defend his freedom of speech.  14 percent said they did not know or had no opinion.

In addition, 54 percent of the nation feels Daryl Morey should be applauded for taking a stand supporting the Hong Kong protesters, with only 19 percent saying he should not have sent the tweet because it risked valuable relationships over a foreign domestic issue.  27 percent did not know or had no opinion.

These are the findings of a Seton Hall Sports Poll, conducted this week among 703 adult Americans across the country on both landlines and cellphones.  The Poll has a margin of error of +/-3.8 percent.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver first apologized for the tweet but later backtracked and showed support for freedom of speech.  46 percent of the public felt he handled it well, and 36 percent say he did not, with 18 percent saying they did not know or had no opinion.

52% Say Lebron James’ Comments were out of self-interest
LeBron James tweeted condemnation of Morey, claiming “he wasn’t educated on the situation” and endangered people “not only financially but physically.”  Only 28 percent thought his reaction was sincere, with 52 percent saying he acted out of financial self-interest.

69% expressed concern that China has so much influence over an American professional League, with only 23 percent saying they are not concerned.

Morey’s Tweet vs. Kaepernick’s Kneeling

Comparing Morey’s tweet to Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem, 47 percent said both actions should be defended as free speech, with 16 percent saying that it only applied to Morey and 5 percent saying it only applied to Kaepernick.

There are big differences between Democrats and Republicans on this comparison.  59 percent of Democrats and only 29 percent of Republicans say that they should both be defended as free speech, while 7 percent of Democrats and 21 percent of Republicans say that it only applies to Morey.

“The fundamental right of free speech seems to have carried the day in favor of Daryl Morey’s tweet,” noted Rick Gentile, director of the Seton Hall Sports Poll, which is sponsored by the Sharkey Institute within the Stillman School of Business. “It is much clearer when applied to a foreign power than to a domestic one.”

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About the poll:

This poll was conducted by telephone October 21-23 among adults in the United States. The Seton Hall Sports Poll is conducted by the Sharkey Institute within the Stillman School of Business. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard landline and cell phones.  The error for subgroups may be higher. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls. The Seton Hall Sports Poll has been conducted regularly since 2006.Recently chosen for inclusion in iPoll by Cornell’s Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, its findings have been published everywhere from USA Today, ESPN, The New York Times, Washington Post, AP, and Reuters to Fox News and most points in between.

Media: Media: Marty Appel,;
Michael Ricciardelli, Associate Director of Media Relations, Seton Hall, 908-447-3034

The results:

  1. Recently the General Manager of the Houston Rockets sent out a tweet saying: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” The Chinese government expressed outrage putting the NBA’s 500 million dollars in annual revenue from China at risk — along with many players endorsement deals valued as high as 10 million per year.

Which of the following statements best reflect your feelings on the issue:

1 – The Rockets’ GM shouldn’t have sent out the tweet risking valuable financial relationships over a foreign domestic issue               19%

2 – The Rockets’ GM is to be applauded for taking a stand supporting the protesters in Hong Kong                                                             54

3 – Don’t know/No opinion          27


  1. Do you think the owner of the Houston Rockets, which stand to lose up to 25 million dollars per year in revenue earned in China, should fire the GM and apologize to the Chinese government or keep him and defend his freedom of speech?


1 – Fire him and apologize                                                     9

2 – Keep him and defend his freedom of speech             77

3 – Don’t know/No opinion                                                   14


  1. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver originally apologized for the tweet, then backtracked and showed support for freedom of speech while regretting any bad feelings that might have been caused. Do you think he handled the situation well or not?


1 – Handled it well                                                                   46

2 – Didn’t handle it well                                                          36

3 – Don’t know/No opinion                                                    18

  1. NBA star LeBron James, frequently outspoken in defense of social justice issues, sent out a tweet condemning the Rockets’ GM saying “he wasn’t educated on the situation” and endangered people “not only financially but physically”. Do you think James was being sincere or acting out of financial self-interest?


1 – Sincere                                                                                 28

2 – Financial self-interest                                                        52

3 – Don’t know/No opinion                                                     20

  1. Are you concerned that China has so much influence over an American professional league?


1 – Yes                                                                                        69

2 – No                                                                                          23

3 – Don’t know/No opinion                                                        8

  1. It has been argued that the GM’s tweet and Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem are both examples of freedom of speech. Do you think that they should both be defended as freedom of speech, just the GM’s tweet, just Kaepernick’s kneeling or neither?

1 – Both                                                                                      47

2 – GM tweet                                                                             16

3 – Kaepernick’s kneeling                                                        5

4 – Neither                                                                                 22

5 – Don’t know/No opinion                                                     10


  1. Would you describe yourself as a Democrat, Republican, Independent or something else?

1 – Democrat                                                                            25

2 – Republican                                                                          25

3 – Independent                                                                       30

4 – Other                                                                                    15

5 – Don’t know/No Opinion                                                      4






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