Basketball star LeBron James wades into row between China, NBA

LeBron James criticised Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey, saying he was "misinformed" and needed to be educated.
LeBron James criticised Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey, saying he was "misinformed" and needed to be educated.PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES • US basketball star LeBron James has weighed in on the controversy between China and the NBA, saying Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey "wasn't educated" when he sent a tweet in support of protesters in Hong Kong this month.

Mr Morey's tweet of support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong on Oct 4 set off a firestorm, prompting Chinese sponsors and partners to cut ties with the league, and the National Basketball Association (NBA) to answer difficult questions about free speech.

James, speaking to reporters on Monday before the Los Angeles Lakers' pre-season game against the Golden State Warriors in California, said: "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.

"I don't want to get into a word or sentence feud with Daryl. But I believe he wasn't educated on the situation at hand and he spoke."

Not long after the media session, James took to Twitter to clarify his statements. "Let me clear up the confusion. I do not believe there was any consideration for the consequences and ramifications of the tweet," he tweeted. "I'm not discussing the substance. Others can talk about that."

James' tweets and statement set off their own firestorm, with basketball fans in the United States and China sounding off.

On Twitter, many users responded to his statement with anger. "Weak," said one user. Others simply posted emoji of bags of money.

 
 
 

On the other side of China's Great Firewall, netizens weighed in to support James, whose statements were trending on Weibo - China's Twitter equivalent - and Douyin, a popular short video platform.

James is one of the few NBA representatives to speak openly about the contention.

"My team and this league just went through a difficult week," he tweeted on Monday. "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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2019, with the headline 'Basketball star wades into row between China, NBA'. Print Edition | Subscribe