NBA superstar LeBron James slammed Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey for posting a tweet in support of Hong Kong’s pro-Democracy protesters amid rising backlash from China.
Morey posted and quickly deleted a message in support of the protests. The NBA and the Rockets were widely criticized for distancing themselves from Morey and “kowtowing” to China’s censorship after the country decided to punish the NBA by, among other things, canceling Rockets telecasts.
James, who was dubbed an “outspoken critic of racial injustice in America,” broke his silence on the issue Monday but, rather than speak out in defense of pro-Democracy protesters and against a country putting hundreds of thousands of Muslims into re-education camps, slammed Morey for threatening the NBA’s finances.
“I don't want to get into a ... feud with Daryl but I believe he wasn't educated about the situation at hand and he spoke," James said. "So many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually. Just be careful what we tweet ... even though, yes, we do have freedom of speech. But there can be a lot of negative that comes with that too.”
James doubles down on Twitter:
After coming under fire for echoing Chinese talking points, James defended his comment on Twitter.
“Let me clear up the confusion. 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,” he wrote. “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.”
James ripped for ‘parroting communist propaganda’:
James was widely criticized after his remarks.
"Having just been in Hong Kong – on the streets & with the protestors – this kind of garbage is hard to take," wrote Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley. "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,” he added.
Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse accused James of “parroting communist propaganda.”
“China is running torture camps and you know it,” he added, imploring James to google the plight of the Uyghurs, who have been rounded up en masse in China.
James was praised when he spoke out in defense of Colin Kaepernick earlier this year.
"Kap stood for something that was bigger than him," James said. "How many people can wake up and say 'You know what, I'll give up everything that I've worked for my whole life, for the better of the conversation. I'm gonna lose everything I've got personally to better the conversation.?'"
Last year he tweeted a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. about how important it was to speak up when you see injustice.
This time, James came under fire for betraying the very ideals he claimed to defend.
Enes Kanter, a Boston Celtics center who faces prison in Turkey for criticzing the government, hit out at James’ comments.
Kanter wrote that he hasn’t spoken to his family in five years, his father was jailed, and his siblings have been blacklisted from jobs because of his stance. He said he faces an international arrest warrant and has received harassment and death threats and even survived a kidnap attempt in Indonesia.
“FREEDOM IS NOT FREE,” he wrote.