href="/nba/team/_/name/hou/houston-rockets">Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta told CNBC in an interview Tuesday that he "loves" the protests happening in cities across the United States and that he encourages all his employees to speak up about issues like racial injustice.
Fertitta also said he was disappointed that his team "got in trouble" earlier this year for a tweet general manager Daryl Morey made in support of the Hong Kong protestors. He clarified later in the interview that there is a difference between speaking out on domestic and international issues.
"Speaking up on an issue in America and speaking up on an issue somewhere else in the world are two different matters," Fertitta told CNBC. "In America, we have free speech and we can do whatever we want to do and say whatever we want and not be penalized because of it. That's why we all love this country so much."
Though Fertitta emphasized the Rockets "should not be a political organization because we have 60,000 employees and 100 million customers and we don't all agree," he said he encourages his employees to share their opinions on issues such as race.
"When it comes to an issue like this in America, you should speak out and say what you want," he said. "And I encourage all my employees from my basketball team to my restaurants to my hotels and casinos to speak out on this issue, and let's make this country better that we live in and has been great for so many of us."
The death of George Floyd has sparked protests across the country. Floyd, who was black, died last week in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. Fertitta called Floyd's death "inexcusable" and said he understands and agrees with the protests.
"I love the protesting. That's what makes America great. Remember, we got in trouble early in the year, my team, because we commented about something which was such a disappointment because that's what makes America great. I just hate that we have to see the coverage of a few negative things, when it's such a great issue to be protesting about."
Fertitta, who owns hundreds of restaurants across the country, also said a handful of them have been vandalized during the protests.
"It's really disappointing because where the protests are happening are in urban areas where a lot of the restaurants and retail were just now opening up again, literally in the last seven days," Fertitta said. "Obviously, this is going to set us back weeks now. Last night in Houston, where we haven't had a lot of problems, the roads were desolate, which is really a shame."
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