'We too love money more than freedom': South Park mocks China after NBA apology

8 October 2019, 07:35 | Updated: 8 October 2019, 10:11

South Park's creators have issued a mocking apology to China after an NBA basketball manager caused a storm by tweeting support for Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who created the adult animated sitcom in 1997, released the "official apology" which said: "Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts.

"We too love money more than freedom and democracy."

Their "apology" came after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said his comments on Hong Kong were "regrettable" after the Chinese Basketball Association, whose president is former Rockets centre Yao Ming, said it was suspending its relationship with the team.

Morey's original tweet, which he deleted, read: "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong."

Several Chinese companies, including some NBA partners who have ploughed more than a billion dollars each into the game, took umbrage with his post.

Streaming service Tencent, which has a $1.5bn (£1.2bn) five-year deal with the NBA in China, and state-run CCTV said they would not be showing Rockets games. On Tuesday, CCTV announced it was suspending all NBA exhibition games

Protesters in Hong Kong, which is semi-autonomous, have been protesting for four months against what they see as an encroachment by the Chinese government on their democracy and freedom.

In a grovelling apology, Morey said he did not intend any offence and has "always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors".

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The NBA and the Rockets' owners apologised profusely as Morey's tweet threatened to derail the multi-billion dollar industry built up over 30 years in China, where basketball is just as popular as it is in the United States.

His comments also prompted a statement from the Chinese consulate office in Houston, where the Rockets are based, in which they "expressed strong dissatisfaction" with the team.

But the South Park creators further mocked China in their tweet by referencing the Chinese president, saying: "Xi doesn't look just like Winnie the Pooh at all.

"Tune into our 300th episode this Wednesday at 10! Long live the Great Communist Party of China!

"May this autumn's sorghum harvest be bountiful.

"We good now China?"

Their tweet gained 43,000 likes and 17,000 retweets in 12 hours.

US Republican Senator Ted Cruz, a lifelong Rockets fan, retweeted the 'apology' and said: "Annoy a communist. Watch South Park. Note to NBA: this is how it's done."

South Park has reportedly been banned from Chinese internet in the past days after the previous episode, called "Band in China", referenced China's crackdown on Winnie the Pooh imagery, which has become a symbol of resistance to the Communist Party and its leader Xi Jinping.

The NBA says 800 million people in China - nearly two-and-a-half times the entire US population - watched their basketball games on TV, digital or smartphones last year.

The Rockets are particularly popular as China's most famous player, Yao Ming, spent his entire nine-year career with the side.

Basketball in China is more than the game and its sponsorship, with the NBA creating its first head of government and public affairs in China to help shape its "public narrative" in a country that Donald Trump is currently engaged in a trade war with.