Lebron James spoke out on Monday in defense of the Chinese Communists. The NBA star trashed Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey for tweeting his support for Hong Kong freedom protesters. And then Lebron lectured on the perils of free speech. Lebron said Daryl’s tweet could have hurt a lot of people.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) October 15, 2019
LeBron James called Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey uneducated and went off at-length about the “negative” side-effects of free speech, in reaction to Morey’s tweet of support to pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong.
On October 4th, Morey tweeted a message of support of Hong Kong’s demonstrators, saying: “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”
That message touched off a firestorm of controversy as China canceled minor league exhibition games and canceled numerous business deals with the Rockets, and the NBA. On Monday, Lakers forward LeBron James spoke publicly about the incident for the first time, and didn’t mince words while calling Morey out for a tweet that he says could have caused people to be physically “harmed.”
The NBA received tremendous bipartisan criticism for their initial response to Morey’s tweet, when they responded by calling the post “regrettable” for the offense that it caused. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver eventually tried to quell the backlash by championing Morey’s free speech rights.
Now, with the league representatives and players back from their tumultuous trip to China, it seemed like the news cycle of the NBA-China rift had died down. However, with James denouncing free speech in even stronger terms than the NBA did while calling a pro-democracy tweet “uneducated,” it’s difficult to see the crisis going away.
“Has he been brainwashed by the Chinese Communist Party’s fake news or has he been bought?” a user asked. Another lamented that an American “would not cherish the precious freedom of speech they [Americans] have.”
The Hollywood Reporter noted some of James’ lucrative ties to Beijing:
James’ business interests in China are enormous, thanks to his lifelong endorsement deal with Nike and his starring role in Warner Bros.’ Space Jam 2, which was likely greenlit with the huge China box office partly in mind, given the popularity of basketball in the country.
RTHK, a Hong Kong broadcaster, noted social media users began circulating a photo of James’ face superimposed on Mao Zedong, the Chinese communist butcher responsible for the deaths of at least 45 million people.
While no NBA affiliated person has openly condemned James’ remarks at press time, Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter appeared to criticize James without naming him. “Wow dude!” he wrote on Twitter, adding an emoji of a man slapping his forehead. He later detailed his own fight with Chinese ally Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of his native Turkey, who has imprisoned his father and antagonized him and his family for being followers of the America-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.
-Haven’t seen or talked to my family 5 years
-Jailed my dad
-My siblings can’t find jobs
-Revoked my passport
-International arrest warrant
-My family can’t leave the country
-Got Death Threats everyday
-Got attacked, harassed
-Tried to kidnap me in Indonesia
FREEDOM IS NOT FREE
— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) October 15, 2019
Following Lebron’s remarks protesters torched Lebron James jerseys in Hong Kong.