Hong Kong protesters are blasting LeBron James’ criticism of an NBA executive who came out in support of their cause against China.
What did James say?
The Los Angeles Lakers superstar said Monday that Houston Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey “wasn’t educated on the situation at hand” when he posted a pro-Hong Kong tweet earlier this month — and that while “we all do have freedom of speech … at times there are ramifications for the negative that can happen.”
“And so many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually, so just be careful what we tweet, what we say, and what we do,” James added.
China — which pours a lot of money into the NBA — took offense at the Morey tweet and stopped broadcasting NBA preseason games.
How did Hong Kong protesters react?
Online platform LIHKG is favored by Hong Kong protesters, the Hollywood Reporter said, and on Tuesday its users ripped James over his comments.
“Has he been brainwashed by the Chinese Communist Party’s fake news or has he been bought?” one user asked, the outlet said, while another noted, “I really cannot believe that someone from the U.S. would not cherish the precious freedom of speech they have.”
The outlet reported that a James tweet from last year quoting Martin Luther King Jr. went viral in Hong Kong on Tuesday and was accompanied by sarcastic retweets:
Yet another LIHKG user asked, “Martin Luther King Jr. fought for civil rights, but LeBron James supports totalitarianism?” the outlet added.
How are others reacting?
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) took issue with James, saying, “It’s sad to see him join the chorus kowtowing to Communist China & putting profits over human rights for #HongKong.”
Scott added, “I was there 2 weeks ago. They’re fighting for freedom & the autonomy they were promised.” He also said “clearly” James “is the one who isn’t educated on the situation at hand.”
In response to James’ follow-up tweet saying “my team and this league just went through a difficult week,” Scott ripped the Lakers’ icon again: “The million+ Uyghurs Communist China has in re-education camps had a tough week. The people of HK fighting for human rights & autonomy had a tough week.”
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) echoed Scott’s position: “Having just been in Hong Kong — on the streets & with the protestors — this kind of garbage is hard to take. LeBron, are YOU educated on ‘the situation’? Why don’t you go to Hong Kong? Why don’t you meet the people there risking their lives for their most basic liberties.”
Hawley added: “This statement is unbelievable. ‘So many people could have been harmed’? By Daryl Morey daring to express sympathy for democracy? News flash: people ARE being harmed — shot, beaten, gassed — right now in Hong Kong. By China. By the Communist Party the NBA is so eager to appease.”
Journalist Melissa Chan posted a string of eye-opening comments about James’ statements — and they were none to kind to the basketball player:
How did China react to James’ comments?
China reacted positively to James’ comments, the Hollywood Reporter said, noting that thousands of comments on the Twitter-like Weibo service lauded the NBA star. One of them said James is “the real hero of America” and “an NBA friend that we can welcome in China,” the outlet added.
The Hollywood Reporter noted James’ “enormous” business interests in China due to his “lifelong endorsement deal with Nike and his starring role in Warner Bros.’ ‘Space Jam 2,’ which was likely greenlit with the huge China box office partly in mind, given the popularity of basketball in the country.”