In the last few weeks, tensions in Hong Kong between the Chinese Communist government and the democratic protestors of Hong Kong have hit a boiling point. The protestors have been marching in the streets of Hong Kong since June when China tried to impose a plan that would allow the extradition of wanted dissidents in Hong Kong to mainland China. These protests have begun to get violent and uncivil and China has decided to ramp up their responses. In recent weeks Chinese police have shot a protestor in the chest with a live round at close range after a short scuffle with police. These protests seem to be getting more violent and wider spread by the day as protesters feel they are fighting for the right to autonomy while China is trying to keep hold of what they perceive to be an unruly colony.
How Morey Could Cost the NBA Millions
These protests have had a far-reaching impact not just in Asia, but the whole world. In the last week or two, the sports world has been hit hard from the NBA to Esports. The NBA has been hit pretty hard after a rather large blunder by Daryl Morey the GM of the Houston Rockets. Morey sent a Tweet, that has since been deleted, vocalizing his support for the democratic protesters in Hong Kong. Following that tweet Rockets president, Tilman Fertitta immediately tried to distance Morey’s tweet from the org.
Listen….@dmorey does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets. Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the @NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization. @espn https://t.co/yNyQFtwTTi
— Tilman Fertitta (@TilmanJFertitta) October 5, 2019
That distance was all in vain, however, as the Rocket’s immediately lot sponsorship and media deals in China which have taken years for the Org. and the league to gain. The NBA has been striving to globalize over the years and the Rockets have been at the forefront of those efforts ever since Yao Ming played in Houston. The Rockets have been successfully spreading their team into Chinese markets and had successfully garnered a large following amongst the Chinese. Morey’s tweet has almost single handily destroyed every connection the Rockets have been working so hard to build. According to Yu Fu a journalist covering the fallout of Morey’s tweets
SPDB, a Rockets sponsor from China, announced that they will stop all marketing and promotion activities related to Rockets. pic.twitter.com/Lr7b4qvJA6
— Yu Fu (@YuFuTroy) October 6, 2019
The Rockets and the NBA have lost all rights to stream home games into China after the tweets and that could be millions of dollars that Morey has cost the NBA. At this time there is no word on whether Morey will be fired or let go, but it doesn’t seem like his job is in danger at the moment.
Why Blizzard Is Being Boycotted
The NBA is not the only sports league to have been affected by the protests in Hong Kong. The Esports world has been struck after a couple of high profile incidents involving Blizzard and their game Hearthstone this past week. Blizzard is one of the largest game companies on the planet and is known for making games like Diablo and Hearthstone, both incredibly popular in Asia. Blizzard has walked into a PR nightmare after suspending one of its Esports competitors from competitive Hearthstone for a year.
— 🎃 Inven Global 🎃 (@InvenGlobal) October 6, 2019
Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai is a well known Hearthstone competitor who received a year ban two days after he showed his support for Hong Kong after his Hearthstone GrandMasters post-win interview live on stream. The announcers were also immediately banned for crouching under the table instead of mediating the conversation. Things have only gotten worse for Blizzard after Blitzchung received massive support from across the internet and led to a major Twitter led boycott of Blizzard. This has even grown into people getting savvy about how they can hurt Blizzard. In recent days, many have put forth the proposal that the Hong Kong rioters should co-opt the Overwatch character Mei as the figurehead of the protest.
It seems like Blizzard is doubling down on supporting authoritarianism. They've blocked all 4 auths so as to prevent acct deletion. Use Blizz IP to rep freeing HK, make it worthless for them. #MeiSupportsHongKong#BoycottBlizzard #BlizzardBoycott #BlizzCon #FreeHongKong #FreeHK pic.twitter.com/MXUtsApVM6
— scari-skald 🧛🏻♀️ (@kirreskald) October 10, 2019
This is all with the hope that China will ban the game as it is seen as a propaganda tool for democratic and violent protests. This would certainly cripple Blizzard as Overwatch is one of its best selling games and has its largest following in the Asian markets of China and South Korea. Blizzard also faced a self-imposed staff walkout which had 30 employees walkout and quit in support of Hong Kong.
The Blizzard fallout has even reached the United States Hearthstone scene when a player from the American University held up a free Hong Kong sign during the Blizzards stream. Blizzard quickly reacted and got rid of the image on stream and cut too short video packages.
in tonight's Collegiate Hearthstone championship, American University held up a "Free Hong Kong, boycott Blizzard" during the broadcast, which was quickly cut away by Blizzard pic.twitter.com/Y9eXtLfuGw
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) October 9, 2019
AU originally thought they would get kicked out of the league however Blizzard decided not to punish them after recent bans have received a lot of public backlashes. Instead, AU self-imposed a ban on themselves leaving the competition and stating that it is unfair for Blizzard to impose bans on some and not others.
In recent days Blizzard has crumbled under the immense amount of public pressure they have been facing and have announced that Blitzchung and the announcers will only be receiving a six-month ban. Blizzard president also announced that Blitzchung will receive all cash prizes that were recently stripped from him.
JUST IN: Blizzard President J. Allen Brack releases statement, says blitzchung and the casters will have their suspensions reduced to six months and blitzchung will be awarded all of his prize money back pic.twitter.com/g1Blouf35p
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) October 12, 2019
Why It Matters
The Hong Kong protests have brought to light how large of an impact China’s economic power has on sports leagues. These leagues are being forced to capitulate the rights of their employees to please their Chinese shareholders. This has dangerous implications because it blurs the lines between the rights of individuals and the rights of companies. Many feel that leagues like the NBA and Blizzard have fallen to much into the rights of the company and feel that a bigger balance needs to be struck between Employees and companies. The Hong Kong protests will continue to boil up and you can expect to see more crossover in sports in the future.