LeBron James has sparked widespread condemnation with comments on the ongoing situation engulfing the NBA in the China-Hong Kong furore.
James believes Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey “was either misinformed or not really educated on the situation” regarding the potential consequences of his actions when he tweeted in support of Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests.
In his first public comments since the Los Angeles Lakers returned home from a strange weeklong tour of China immediately after Morey's incendiary tweet, James' lengthy answer to a question about whether Morey should be punished for his tweet didn't appear to specifically address the merits of Morey's support of Hong Kong sovereignty.
The Lakers superstar instead characterised the international incident caused by Morey's tweet as a cautionary tale about the power of social media.
“Yes, we do have freedom of speech,” James said.
“But at times, there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you're not thinking about others, when you only think about yourself.
“I don't want to get into a word or sentence feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn't educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke. So many people could have been harmed, not only financially but physically, emotionally, spiritually.
“So just be careful what we tweet and what we say and what we do. Even though yes, we do have freedom of speech, it can be a lot of negative that comes with it.”
When asked to clarify his thoughts, James went further.
“I believe (Morey) was either misinformed or not really educated on the situation, and if he was, then so be it,” James said.
“But I have no idea. That's just my belief. When you say things or do things, you're doing it and you know the people that can be affected by it, and the families and the individuals and everyone that can be affected by it.
“Sometimes things can be challenging as well. Also sometimes, social media is not always the proper way to go about things as well. But that's just my belief.”
However James’ comments have gone down like a lead balloon, with a number of commentators believing James should have condemned China and shown support for Morey.
“Having just been in Hong Kong — on the streets & with the protesters — this kind of garbage is hard to take,” US Senator Josh Hawley tweeted.
“LeBron, are YOU educated on ‘the situation’? Why don’t you go to Hong Kong? Why don’t you meet the people there risking their lives for their most basic liberties.
“This statement is unbelievable: ‘So many people could have been harmed’. By Daryl Morey daring to express sympathy for democracy? News flash: people ARE being harmed — shot, beaten, gassed — right now in Hong Kong. By China. By the Communist Party the NBA is so eager to appease.”
This statement is unbelievable. “So many people could have been harmed”? By Daryl Morey daring to express sympathy for democracy? News flash: people ARE being harmed - shot, beaten, gassed - right now in Hong Kong. By China. By the Communist Party the NBA is so eager to appease— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) October 15, 2019
Clay Travis of Fox Sports added: “This is absolutely shameful. LeBron had a week to come up with what to say and he decided to rip an NBA executive who defended democracy. Turns out if you pay him enough LeBron won’t just shut up and dribble, he’ll defend communist dictatorships.”
LeBron attacking Rockets GM Daryl Morey for supporting democracy in China. This is absolutely shameful. https://t.co/nPhVMca9Hl— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) October 15, 2019
LeBron had a week to come up with what to say and he decided to rip an NBA executive who defended democracy. Turns out if you pay him enough LeBron won’t just shut up and dribble, he’ll defend communist dictatorships.— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) October 15, 2019
Reporter Ryan Saavedfra also weighed in, saying: “Daryl Morey’s educational achievements: Has a B.S. in Computer Science from Northwestern University and an M.B.A. from the MIT. LeBron James’ educational achievements: High school diploma.”
Daryl Morey's educational achievements: Has a B.S. in Computer Science from Northwestern University and an M.B.A. from the MIT— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) October 15, 2019
LeBron James' educational achievements: High school diploma https://t.co/AyTdYfEIDC
James has since defended his statement on social media.
“Let me clear up the confusion,” he tweeted. “I do not believe there was any consideration for the consequences and ramifications of the tweet. I’m not discussing the substance. Others can talk about that.
“My team and this league just went through a difficult week. I think people need to understand what a tweet or statement can do to others. And I believe nobody stopped and considered what would happen. Could have waited a week to send it.”
My team and this league just went through a difficult week. I think people need to understand what a tweet or statement can do to others. And I believe nobody stopped and considered what would happen. Could have waited a week to send it.— LeBron James (@KingJames) October 15, 2019
NBA stars engulfed in China furore
James didn't play when the Lakers hosted the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center on Monday night, just two days after they returned home from their bizarre trip to China.
A typical NBA preseason promotional swing through Shanghai and Shenzhen became something else when Morey tweeted in support of the Hong Kong protesters while the Lakers were in the air on their 13-hour flight to China.
The Lakers landed amid outrage with Morey's since-deleted tweet and the NBA in general. The league and Chinese authorities decided to hold no media availability or community events with the Lakers or the Brooklyn Nets, their opponents.
The Lakers passed their week in China in public silence. Although the exhibition games weren't canceled, the league claimed it would be unfair to ask players and coaches to speak on the delicate geopolitical argument in which they found themselves involuntarily enmeshed.
So the players spent most of the week in hotels or on the court, with two NBA Cares events, a fan event and other public appearances all canceled by the league or the government. Several companies and state-run offices reportedly severed their ties with the NBA over Morey's tweet and the league's response to it.
When asked about his thoughts on the political side of the events in China, James echoed Warriors coach Steve Kerr's belief that he wasn't educated enough to comment on the situation.
“When I speak about something, I speak about something I am very knowledgeable about, something that hits home for me, something that I am very passionate about,” James said.
“I felt like with this particular situation, it was something that not only was I not informed enough about, I just felt like it was something that not only myself and my teammates or our organisation had enough information to even talk about it at that point in time, and we still feel the same way.”
with Associated Press