NBA superstar LeBron James’ rebuke of Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey for advocating for Hong Kong’s freedom has been met with strong pushback from pro-democracy Hong King protesters, who took to social media to ask whether the Lakers star has been “brainwashed” by Communist Chinese propaganda or simply “bought.”
“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 told reporters before a game Monday when asked about the NBA-China controversy started by Morey simply tweeting “Fight For Freedom Stand With Hong Kong” before being pressured to delete it and apologize.
“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 continued. “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.”
LeBron James rips Daryl Morey, says Morey was uneducated. Says, “We do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negatives that come with that too.” Really. pic.twitter.com/ZTw6a3FZ5n
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) October 15, 2019
Amid outrage over his dismissive comments on the foundational principle of freedom of expression and his suggestion that those who defend Hong Kong are “misinformed,” James took to Twitter to “clear up the confusion” — but only ended up inspiring more backlash.
“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,” James tweeted, adding in a follow-up post: “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’ “clarification” ended up prompting more criticism for his attempt to paint himself and his team as the true victims of the situation. As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, “many in Hong Kong argued that any such unpleasantness was little compared to police brutality.”
“The online platform LIHKG, the forum favored by Hong Kong’s protestors, was awash with criticism and handwringing Tuesday,” THR reports, citing a few examples of posts by outraged protesters, including “Has he been brainwashed by the Chinese Communist Party’s fake news or has he been bought?”
THR notes that others sarcastically retweeted James’ past pro-free speech statements, including one from January 15, 2018 in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. “Injustice Anywhere Is A Threat To Justice Everywhere- Our Lives Begin To End The Day We Become Silent About Things That Matter- #ThankYouMLK50,” tweeted James.
“Martin Luther King Jr. fought for civil rights, but LeBron James supports totalitarianism?” asked one protester. Another wrote in disbelief that “someone from the U.S. would not cherish the precious freedom of speech they have.”
James’ complaint about him and his team going through “a difficult week” because of Morey expressing support of the pro-democracy protests was also met with severe backlash in the states — online, in the media and in the political world.
In an op-ed for USA Today, Dan Wolken issued a heavily sarcastic apology to James. “On behalf of the 327 million American citizens who generally believe that freedom is good and authoritarian regimes are less good, let me apologize to LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers. It must have been a real inconvenience to take that 13-hour chartered flight to China last week and hang around a luxury hotel in Shanghai for five days while promotional appearances got canceled.”
“Gosnell” director Nick Searcy also blasted James for trying to make himself the victim, tweeting, “We are so sorry for your pain. Not as sorry as those imprisoned in Chinese re-education camps, but pretty sorry.” Many others on Twitter issued similar rebukes.
While many have felt compelled to call out James, thus far “woke” ESPN has covered the story pretty straight, its main coverage simply reporting what the Lakers star said.