The relationship between the NBA and China is growing increasingly fractured, but Dennis Rodman thinks he can save it.
The Hall of Famer this week offered to serve as the league’s ambassador to China and try to repair the relationship that has become increasingly strained after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey offered support to protesters in Hong Kong. As the New York Post reported, Rodman reached out to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and offered his services.
“Commissioner Adam Silver,” Rodman said in a video posted to Twitter. “I know a thing or two about diplomacy.”
“Book me a ticket to Shanghai with you.”
Though Morey’s tweet simply expressed support for the protesters in Hong Kong — which he quickly deleted and offered an apology — it has led to a massive backlash as the Chinese government moves to sever ties with the NBA and Chinese businesses have backed out of relationships as well. As ABC News reported, several NBA Cares events scheduled for this week in Shanghai were abruptly canceled and China’s state-run broadcasting network ordered a blackout of all NBA coverage. The Chinese internet giant Tencent also announced that it would not be streaming Houston Rockets games, the report added.
The Rockets had been one of the most popular teams in China, thanks to the emergence of Rockets legend Yao Ming as the first big star from China. Houston team ownership has offered an apology, and star player James Harden has also been dispatched to attempt to smooth over the relationship, apologizing and saying “We love China” in a statement to reporters. Harden himself faced some backlash, however, as he offered support for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after Silver said he would not infringe on the free speech of those in the league.
The country’s backlash has put the NBA in a difficult position, as the league has made significant efforts to grow its market in China and could face a major financial setback should China sever ties completely. But the NBA is also facing a significant backlash at home, where many fans have spoken out against the league for giving in to China and politicians on both sides of the aisle have accused the NBA of valuing its profits over values.
It was not clear if the NBA would take Dennis Rodman up on his offer to serve as an ambassador to China. The former Chicago Bulls star in his bid to the league touted his accomplishments in other diplomatic endeavors, including his work in North Korea as Donald Trump attempted to cool tensions with the country.