On Wednesday, reports surfaced that the Los Angeles Lakers, led by LeBron James, were going to boycott the rest of the NBA playoffs to protest racial inequality and police brutality, but on Thursday, a sudden change occurred, as reports indicated James and co. decided to keep playing instead.
Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported on Thursday night:
Ever since the league suspended play on March 11 due to the coronavirus, James had been an advocate for resuming play if proper health and safety protocols allowed for it. But in Wednesday’s meeting, players began seeing a shift in his position when he agreed to go with whatever the majority decided, sources said.
With emotions all over the place, Haslem pressed James and asked the star what he planned to do, reminding him that he’s the face of the league and it goes as he goes, sources said. James then said, “We’re out,” and walked out with almost all of his teammates following behind, sources said, wit Howard being the only Laker who remained.
Haynes noted that on Thursday, the NBA players met again, this time deciding to continue the season.
The quick reversal of plans triggered actor James Woods to offer one possible reason for James’ apparent shift, as he tweeted, “His China handlers didn’t like the optics?”
His China handlers didn’t like the optics? https://t.co/PsbhIXHd9E
— James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) August 28, 2020
Woods’ reference to China and James revolves around the fact that James’ initial comments after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey supporting pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong were highly critical.
“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 only thinking about yourself,” said 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,” adding later, “So many people could have been harmed not only financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually.”
After Morey’s comment, ESPN wrote, “The issue of China’s sovereignty had been drilled into Team USA players who traveled to China for the FIBA World Cup just weeks before. One player from USA Basketball told ESPN that he ‘couldn’t believe’ Morey would take on the issue with a tweet after the way Team USA was warned about its complications.”
Sports Illustrated noted the intimate connection between China and the NBA, writing, “The league has a $1.5 billion contract with Chinese tech giant Tencent as well as relationships with China’s CCTV Sports Channel, the smartphone company Vivo and other Chinese companies. These deals could eventually provide the NBA with billions of dollars in revenue—dollars that, under the collective bargaining agreement, would be shared with NBA players through higher salary caps and higher player salaries.”
Fox Business reported of James and China, “He holds a lifetime deal valued at $1 billion with sports retail giant Nike, which saw its sales in China surge 27 percent to nearly $1.7 billion in its most recent fiscal quarter alone. James’ signature sneaker line is one of Nike’s most prominent offerings.”
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