The NBA has been ablaze with controversy since Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey upset the Chinese government and the powers that be within the league earlier this month by tweeting his support for the ongoing Hong Kong protests.
On Monday, Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James weighed in with his thoughts on the situation.
Doing nothing to quiet the controversy, James towed the NBA line — rebuking Morey’s remarks as uneducated and going so far as to call the situation an example of the “negative” ramifications of free speech.
“We all talk about this freedom of speech, yes, we all do have freedom of speech, but at times there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you’re not thinking about others and you’re only thinking about yourself,” James said.
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
“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,” James continued.
“Not only financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually. So, just be careful what we tweet, and we say, and what we do. Even though, yes, we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that too.”
The remarks did considerable damage to the longtime NBA star’s personal brand overseas, however.
Within hours, protesters on the streets of Hong Kong were trampling and setting fire to merchandise bearing his name, number and likeness.
“People are angry,” Hong Kong web designer James Lo told The Guardian.
Lo, who operates an basketball fan page on Facebook, said one fan set a James jersey on fire and sent him a video of it.
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) October 15, 2019
“Students, they come out like every weekend,” Lo said. “They’ve got tear gassed and then they got gun-shot.
“Police beating students and then innocent people, like every day. And then he just comes up with something [like] that. We just can’t accept that,” he added.
James, meanwhile, told reporters on Tuesday that he has not really been paying attention to the backlash his original remarks garnered, according to USA Today.
But he also doubled down, claiming that “every issue” is not “everybody’s problem.”
“When the issue comes up and you feel passionate about it and you feel like it’s something you want to talk about, then so be it,” he said.
“I also don’t think every issue should be everybody’s problem as well,” James added.
“There’s multiple things that we haven’t talked about that have happened in our own country that we don’t bring up.”
Of course, James is well known for his motto, “More than an Athlete” — a catchphrase born of the player’s belief that celebrities and professional athletes should be social influencers and political advocates.
And he has, on numerous occasions, made blatant political overtures against President Donald Trump and in favor of various fellow athletes’ support for social movements like Black Lives Matter.
James has been so politically and socially involved in the past that his recent remarks have led a number of Hong Kong protesters and their supporters to believe the NBA star’s unwillingness to get behind this cause is entirely financially motivated.
“Lebron James stands for money,” one protester told The Guardian. “Period.”
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