NBA megastar LeBron James attempted to explain his shocking remarks about free speech, Hong Kong, and China on Monday night but ended up digging himself in a deeper hole.
“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 when asked about the backlash that Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey received for advocating for Hong Kong’s freedom.
“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,” James continued. “So many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”
James’ comments went instantly viral, garnering more than 2.2 million views in a little over an hour after being posted to Twitter.
James tried to mitigate the fallout from his comments, which quickly became the #1 trend on Twitter, tweeting: “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 then suggested that he was somehow the victim of Morey’s tweet, writing: “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.”
The NBA’s controversial decision to defend the Communist Party of China (CPC) gained serious national spotlight after Morey tweeted support for the protesters in Hong Kong.
Morey tweeted out a graphic a couple of weeks ago that stated: “Fight For Freedom Stand With Hong Kong.”
“The Houston Rockets suddenly find themselves in the middle of a geopolitical controversy that could put their chief front-office executive’s job in jeopardy,” The Ringer reported. “After general manager Daryl Morey expressed support in a since-deleted tweet for pro-democracy efforts in Hong Kong, the Chinese government, the Chinese Basketball Association, and various Chinese businesses quickly denounced Morey and moved to sever ties with the Rockets. As a consequence, league sources told The Ringer that Rockets ownership has debated Morey’s employment status and whether to replace him.”
NBA chief communications officer Mike Bass released the following statement:
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. 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. We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.
Morey later apologized for standing with the protesters, tweeting: “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. 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.”
James’ initial remarks stirred strong backlash online, as did his subsequent attempt to explain himself and paint himself as the victim of the situation.