LeBron James speaks for the first time since the NBA’s trip to China, says Rockets GM Daryl Morey was “misinformed” about the ramifications of his tweet, and “not educated about the situation.” Here are LeBron’s comments in full: pic.twitter.com/Rwjnchm2w3
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) October 15, 2019
Soon after, James took to Twitter to clarify his statement. He said Morey wasn’t educated on the power of social media – not of human rights violations in Hong Kong and China. That explanation did not calm critics who accused the superstar of super hypocrisy. Fans and news media alike pointed to James’ critical stance on President Donald Trump, his public support of Colin Kaepernik and rejection of a conservative pundit telling him to “shut up and dribble.”
The backlash was unlike anything we’ve seen in James’ career since “The Decision.” There’s no way to tell how the episode will damage his reputation Stateside but in Hong Kong the response was overwhelming.
Protesters burned James’ jersey in the streets and held up disparaging signs and images. One illustration showed James with a look of disgust on his face displayed on Chinese currency. The message was clear: “LeBron values his own profit over human rights.”
James addressed the situation again in the wake of Hong Kong’s response. This time his message was more measured and neutral. “We’re not politicians. It’s a huge political thing. But we are leaders and we can step up at times. I’m not saying at this particular time, but if you don’t feel like you should speak on things, you shouldn’t have to.”
That may be the last we hear from King James but the international scandal is far from over. The NBA still has to sort through how to repair a business relationship dating back over 30 years. It also must reconcile how to do business in a country with conflicting political views and human rights standards. One thing is clear to all involved: a seven word tweet can turn the basketball world upside down.