Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, who amassed his wealth as a restaurant business executive, brought up general manager Daryl Morey's social media post about Hong Kong in a meeting with President Donald Trump, senior advisor Jared Kuschner and industry leaders on Monday.
The gathering was meant to discuss economic reopening strategies for the United States amid the coronavirus pandemic. Fertitta remarked about his GM as an aside after someone else mentioned China.
“You know, it’s funny you brought up about China," Fertitta told the room. "I should have realized it was gonna be a bad year for China when my general manager tweeted out 'Freedom for Hong Kong.'"
Said Trump in response: "You kept that quiet, right? You kept that quiet."
The interaction between Tilman Fertitta and President Donald Trump about #Rockets GM Daryl Morey
Fertitta: “You know, it’s funny you brought up about China. I should have realized it was gonna be a bad year for China when my general manager tweeted out “Freedom for Hong Kong.” pic.twitter.com/oywIGoDgsW
— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) May 18, 2020
Fertitta was referencing Morey's Oct. 4 tweet in which the GM offered support to Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China battling for its independence from mainland influence. Because the NBA — and the Rockets in particular — have strong financial ties to China, the league struggled to balance its social justice views with its economic wishes, ultimately undercutting Morey's since-deleted social media post.
Morey remained employed by the Rockets following the incident. He has been at the helm since the 2007-08 campaign, overseeing nine playoff berths. He built the foundation of the current Rockets team by trading for James Harden in a blockbuster deal with the Thunder and more recently acquiring Russell Westbrook.
Trump went on to ask Fertitta whether Morey was fired for his comments on China. Fertitta explained Morey was still employed and joked the questions regarding his GM were "a trick."