LeBron James has stepped into the feud between the NBA and China after his remarks about the league's executive.
James said that Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey was “not really educated on the situation” in reference to a tweet he sent supporting Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. The ripple effect of this tweet has caused a rift between the NBA and China.
Lakers’ LeBron James on NBA’s China controversy: “I don’t want to get into a ... feud with Daryl Morey but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand and he spoke.” pic.twitter.com/KKrMNU0dKR— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) October 15, 2019
Protesters in Hong Kong were furious at LeBron James for speaking out against Daryl Morey. Around 200 people were reportedly demonstrating in Hong Kong.
They really out here burning their LeBron James jerseys just because of what he said. 💀😂 A jersey cost 900HKD-1200 HKD and you probably saved up to get the jerseys. You could've just donated them to charity or something but oh no you had to burn them. smh. pic.twitter.com/cxbSf1Yryl— Melanie Ngai 🇨🇳🇨🇦🇭🇰🤜👊🤛 (wumao klan) (@melngai416) October 16, 2019
Chanting praises for Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, Protesters cheered when a ball dropped into the basket after smashing into a photo of LeBron James' face that was placed above the hoop. They also trampled on jerseys bearing his name and gathered in a semicircle to watch one burn.
Hi, @KingJames here, please leave me alone I just had “a difficult week” I mean I can’t be expected to survive on only a measly half a billion dollars and on top of all that the private jet I just traveled on had a scratch on its custom leather interior— Kat Timpf (@KatTimpf) October 16, 2019
Activists on social media have criticized James, questioning the motivation of his comments and disappointed that he had not taken a stand to defend free speech.
Sad to see LeBron James prioritize his business interests in China over the right of free speech, let alone the freedom of the people in Hong Kong (and mainland China). https://t.co/LGmhF7aL4w pic.twitter.com/PqyjygSQKj— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) October 16, 2019
When asked about his response, James announced that he will never talk about this issue again. He concluded by saying "it's a tough situation we're all in right now."
"I talked about it yesterday...I'm talking about it now but I'm not talking about it again." @KingJames discusses shifting the preseason focus to the #Lakers winning a championship. pic.twitter.com/7KUfgzroCM— Spectrum SportsNet (@SpectrumSN) October 16, 2019
I asked LeBron James on his response to the criticism on not speaking out on a freedom of speech/human rights issue. His response pic.twitter.com/3ub5hYsa22— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) October 15, 2019
In the lead up to James' comments, Morey's pro-Hong Kong protest tweet had resulted in an angry China canceling TV broadcasts of games being played in the country in addition to pulling sponsorship from the Rockets.
The NBA initially half-apologized to China but later retreated and defended free speech rights of its league members.
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