Amid the rage surrounding a tweet from the team’s general manager in support of anti-government protests in Hong Kong, Houston Rockets sneakers and other merchandise were pulled from various Nike stores in major Chinese cities.
Managers at Nike stores in Beijing and Shanghai had been told via a memo from management that all Rockets merchandise had to be pulled out.
Although Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has made an apology for his tweet last week, National Basketball Association (NBA) Commissioner Adam Silver further infuriated authorities when he said the league backed Morey’s right to exercise his freedom of expression.
Even after the controversy, the NBA was pushing for an exhibition game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets in Shanghai on Thursday night. Promotional events earlier in the week had been called off.
The stakes are high for NBA, whose league business in China is worth approx $4 billion. China is Nike’s top source of revenue growth as other regions slow. A handful of Nike stores in Shenzhen also kept Rockets merchandise out of the shelves, as well as NBA products in general. Three Nike stores in Chengdu, a bustling inland city in southwest China, also took off Rockets products.
Even two basketball-themed NBA Playzone family entertainment centers in Shanghai and Beijing opened by NBA China also confirmed pulling out Rockets products.
Top Chinese e-commerce players Alibaba (BABA.N) and JD.com (JD.O) have taken Houston Rockets merchandise off their marketplaces, including mobile apps.
Searches for sneakers with the NBA logo on Alibaba and JD.com also didn’t show any results which include collaboration sneakers marketed with brands such as Nike and Carlyle-backed (CG.O) Supreme.
A small number of individual online merchants still sell the sneakers.
Alibaba has told domestic media that Morey’s comments had seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and that there was nothing left for negotiation.
While JD.com told that the firm disliked and strongly condemned Morey’s remarks.
Two of the biggest online resale marketplaces for sneakers in China have also removed all branded shoes related to the NBA. Poizon and DoNew, two mobile shopping apps popular among fans of designer sneakers, have taken NBA shoes off their platforms.
As long as the bosses of Nike and Adidas don’t come out and say something stupid and get banned by China’s central government, I think sneaker resales in China will remain pretty profitable.
Adidas is in the process of cracking up a reported $200 million, and a 13-year endorsement contract with Houston Rockets star guard James Harden, who is the centerpiece of the apparel maker’s basketball shoe lineup. But if Nike and Adidas get banned, that would be the end of it.