CLEVELAND — NBA star LeBron James waded into international politics on Monday night by claiming that Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey "wasn't educated" on China's strained relations with Hong Kong when Morey tweeted support for Hong Kong.
Earlier this month, Morey tweeted support for Hong Kong by posting, "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong." He later deleted the tweet, but because the NBA chose not to punish Morey for his actions, China will not broadcast or stream NBA preseason games that will be held in the country.
James' team, the Los Angeles Lakers, played a preseason game in China on Saturday against the Brooklyn Nets.
While the NBA chose not to punish Morey, the league has taken steps in the weeks since not to upset Chinese government officials. The NBA appeared to block reporters from asking players questions about China at a press conference earlier this week.
China represents a growing market for NBA fans, and the league has a significant financial stake in growing the game there.
On Monday, Washington Post reporter Ben Golliver tweeted video of James saying he believed Morey was misinformed about China after returning from his game there.
Many on social media erupted and attacked James for not standing up for the civil rights of those in Hong Kong following his comments.
So @KingJames says the ONE GUY who spoke up for freedom and liberty and against tyranny "wasn't educated on the issue?"
You mean, he needs to be re-educated?
This is an embarrassment. https://t.co/GWMNvu0pHi
— Larry O'Connor (@LarryOConnor) October 15, 2019
LeBron James and Steve Kerr becoming useful idiots for a authoritarian regime building concentration camps for religious minorities was never a square I expected to fill on my 2019 bingo card but hey, I’ll take what I can get.
— Sonny Bunch (@SonnyBunch) October 15, 2019
"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, you're only thinking about yourself."
That quote should forever be an asterisk attached to the on-court legacy @KingJames leaves.
— Tim Alberta (@TimAlberta) October 15, 2019
Shorter @KingJames : I stand with the Chinese Communist regime & anyone who doesn’t is uneducated. Also, freedom of speech is nice but, c’mon, it might keep me from becoming a billionaire. So cut it out.
All hail the king! Stay woke, folks! https://t.co/lGhSO0fsnj
— Cliff Sims (@Cliff_Sims) October 15, 2019
James has been outspoken about social issues in the past. Following the death of Trayvon Martin, he and his Miami Heat teammates posed in hoodies while calling for justice for Martin's death. In 2014, James warmed prior to a game in Brooklyn in a "I can't breathe" T-shirt in honor of Eric Garner, who died at the hands of police.
This story was originally published by Courtney Shaw on WEWS in Cleveland.