Rockets’ ‘revolt’ reportedly spawned by owner Tilman Fertitta’s Donald Trump ties
The Houston Rockets have all the appearances of an organization in a total state of disarray, and is it possible that the team owner Tilman Fertitta’s conservative political affiliations are to blame? A veteran NBA reporter suggests that may indeed be the case.
The biggest news out of Houston over the past few weeks in the wake of the departures of general manager Daryl Morey and head coach Mike D’Antoni is how James Harden and Russell Westbrook want out.
The prevailing belief is that the two superstars are concerned about the direction of the organization after it cut ties with D’Antoni and Morey, specifically concerning how the Rockets may no longer have legitimate championship aspirations.
It seems that the concerns of Harden and Westbrook, among other players, may be deeper and actually have nothing to do with where the Rockets stand.
Ric Bucher appeared this week on “The Odd Couple” podcast with Chris Broussard and Rob Parker and speculated that Fertitta’s political leanings, particularly his support of Donald Trump, has led to what he referred to as a “revolt” within the player ranks.
“I immediately thought this was Daryl Morey leaving, and Mike D’Antoni leaving, and Russell Westbrook and James Harden going ‘No offense to Stephen Silas or Rafael Stone, but we don’t want a starter kit, we’re playing for a championship,’” Bucher said.
“But what I heard is — and we know how much politics and political position had to do with the boycott and protests during the (NBA) bubble — I’m hearing that Tilman Fertitta’s strong Republican support and donations is one of the things that is contributing to this dissatisfaction, and those two [Westbrook and Harden] are not the only ones to want out of Houston. Lesser players are of the same mind. There is a revolt here because they look at Fertitta as a guy who supports the current president.”
To say that Trump’s interactions with the NBA have been extremely acrimonious throughout his presidency would be an understatement. The vitriol was only further ramped up with the league’s restart in the bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.
Trump condemned NBA players in August for kneeling during the national anthem before games, calling the decision to do so “disgraceful.” He later blamed the NBA’s disappointing ratings during the restart due to the league being “highly political.”
It stands to reason that the manner in which Trump has vilified the NBA over the past four years would leave players upset if their owner publicly supported his presidency and administration.
It is well known that Fertitta enjoys a collegial relationship with Trump, though it merits noting that the Rockets owner publicly disagreed with the President over some of his remarks about players’ actions in the bubble.
It appears that Fertitta’s decision to align with players at that point was perhaps too little, too late.