NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal defended Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey on Tuesday for tweeting his support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
Morey’s now-deleted tweet had read, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Kong.”
Infuriated, authorities in China canceled an exhibition game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers, leading to an eruption from NBA superstar and Lakers forward LeBron James.
“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,” James said last week. “I just think that when you’re misinformed or you’re not educated about something — and I’m just talking about the tweet itself — you never know the ramifications that can happen. We all see what that did — not only for our league but for all of us in America, for people in China as well.”
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
“Daryl Morey was right,” he said.
O’Neal said the issue went deeper than one tweet.
“Whenever you see something wrong going on anywhere in the world, you should have the right to say that’s not right, and that’s what he did,” O’Neal said.
“When it comes to business sometimes, you have to tiptoe around things, but again, they understand our values and we understand our values and here, we have the right to speak. Especially with social media — we’re going to say whatever we want to say, when we want to say it.”
O’Neal said that just because the U.S. and China do business does not mean Americans should put their values on the backburner when dealing with China.
“We as American people, we do a lot of business in China and they know and understand our values, and we understand their values. And one of our best values here in America is free speech. We’re allowed to say what we want to say, and we’re allowed to speak up about injustices, and that’s just how it goes,” he said.
“And if people don’t understand that, that’s something that they have to deal with.”
Many on Twitter praised O’Neal.
Always knew Shaq was a 🐐on the basketball court, but his principled stance on the side of democracy and free speech in the face of Communist China proves he is the MAN off the court too. Thank you Shaquille O’Neal! 👏🏾👏🏾 #NBATipOff
— Miestro#1 (@indigoace40) October 22, 2019
— Ben DuBose (@BenDuBose) October 22, 2019
— Luke Patey (@LukePatey) October 23, 2019
The rift between China and the NBA that was triggered by Morey’s remarks did not seem close to healing Tuesday night.
China did not televise the opening night of NBA games, according to The Guardian.
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