LeBron James is finding himself on defense as he faces heat over his comments about Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey and the China controversy.
On Monday, the Los Angeles Lakers player spoke for the first time about Morey’s Oct. 4 tweet — which showed support for Hong Kong amid recent protests against a proposed bill that would allow extraditions from the semiautonomous territory to China — and told reporters that he believed the NBA executive had been “misinformed” about the situation he was tweeting about.
“I don’t want to get into a [verbal] feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke,” James, 34, said ahead of the Lakers’ preseason game against the Golden State Warriors, according to ESPN. “And so many people could have been harmed not only financially, physically, emotionally, spiritually. So just be careful what we tweet and say and we do, even though, yes, we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that, too.”
“I believe he was either misinformed or not really educated on the situation, and if he was, then so be it,” the NBA player added. “I have no idea, but that is just my belief. Because when you say things or do things, if you are doing it and you know the people that can be affected by it and the families and individuals and everyone that can be affected by it, sometimes things can be changed as well. And also social media is not always the proper way to go about things as well, but that’s just my belief.”
Since giving his statement to the media on the issue, James has also used Twitter to defend his comments — which have garnered backlash as many have showed support for Morey’s original tweet, which he has since deleted.
“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,” James clarified on Twitter. “Others can talk About that.”
In a subsequent tweet he added: “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.”
On Oct. 4, Morey allegedly sent out a tweet that read “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong,” according to multiple reports. The tweet was referencing protests over the proposed bill, which many citizens of Hong Kong fear is a way for Beijing leaders to contradict rights the territory was granted when the United Kingdom returned it to Chinese control in 1997, according to The Washington Post. The Lakers were, at the time, en route to China for a series of preseason games.
His tweet caused an uproar in China, especially because the Rockets — who drafted the legendary Chinese player Yao Ming in 2002 — is one of the most popular NBA teams in the East Asian country. The Chinese consulate in Houston issued a statement expressing “strong dissatisfaction” over the tweet.
In addition to this, the NBA has been working to expand their relationship with China, as it has been a big market for the league, according to Sporting News, and Morey’s tweet was immediately condemned by the Rockets and the NBA.
“We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable,” the NBA said in a statement, CBS Sports reported. “While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them.”
Morey has since issued an apology on Oct. 6, saying, “I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.”
He continued, “I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention. My tweets are my own and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA.”
Many politicians from both parties have criticized the NBA’s response. Presidential Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke tweeted “the only thing the NBA should be apologizing for is their blatant prioritization of profits over human rights.” Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, tweeted that the NBA was “shamefully retreating.”
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