Adrian Wojnarowski, the preeminent NBA reporter for ESPN, has not publicly commented on the enormous story about Daryl Morey's tweet in support of Hong Kong protestors and subsequent tempest. However, he 'liked' Morey's tweet before it got deleted, and hordes of accounts with a combination of support for the Chinese government and under 10 followers began attacking him over the weekend:
It went on and on even further but you get the point. Some of the tweets supported Wojnarowski, Morey, and Hong Kong, but a vast majority of them were negative and seemed to come from bot accounts.
A rep for Wojnarowski and a spokesperson for ESPN declined to comment for this story, so it's anyone's guess what his motivation was in liking it in the first place. It could have been solidarity with the Rockets GM -- as we said earlier, arguing in favor of democratic self-governance over Communist state control would not be remotely controversial if not for the billions of dollars at stake -- or he could've been using the function to bookmark it later. Another possibility is that he was liking it as a way of passing it into some of his followers' timelines; it would seem from the outside that if this like was not meant as an endorsement then a quote-tweet explaining some context would've been more effective here, but this story has also mushroomed beyond what anyone could've reasonably fathomed when it all started.
It bears mentioning that this is all just about as dangerous a beehive for ESPN as it is for the NBA, whose reputation for progressivism is taking a massive hit in the eyes of many. With ESPN, they are close partners with the NBA, they have talent and producers in China right now for episodes of The Jump this week, they have a content partnership with Tencent (the Chinese broadcaster for NBA games that set the whole story into overdrive on Sunday when they announced they wouldn't air Rockets games), Disney movies are a license for printing money in no small part because their box office success in China is astounding, and President Jimmy Pitaro has made it abundantly clear he believes ESPN viewers don't want political commentary from either side of the aisle.
Nevertheless, this is obviously a story with a profound amount of sports overlap given all of the factors at play now, and it is not as though ESPN as a network entirely shied away from it. It was discussed on The Jump and all four of the shows produced by Erik Rydholm (High Noon, Highly Questionable, Around the Horn, and Pardon the Interruption) today. Stephen A. Smith discussed it as well, taking the tack that Morey was a troublemaking employee by tweeting what he did. On the other side of things, Keith Olbermann shamed the NBA:
And then there was the recently-retired Bob Ley, who clearly did not side with the NBA either, and used a photo of Tiananmen Square and three words to say thousands:
There is no easy answer for how ESPN should address this story especially given the timing that they're going to be in China this week, but the NBA is in the middle of the rare controversy where Elizabeth Warren and Ted Cruz are in full agreement. Will this snowball melt, or will it become an avalanche?