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12 Nov 2019 16:05
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  •   Home > News > International

    LeBron James weighs in on China, accuses Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey of not being 'educated'

    Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James launches a stunning attack on Houston boss Daryl Morey and reopens the NBA's gaping China wound all at once as a rival star blows up.

    With just one week until the NBA regular season tips off, the league is still reeling from its public relations disaster in China, and now the game's biggest star, LeBron James, has weighed in on the issue.

    And the way he managed to do so — going in to bat for the league, rather than condemning China for their actions in Hong Kong — has raised more than a few eyebrows.

    The whole issue reached breaking point last week when Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for the people of Hong Kong, which set off a chain of events that caused Chinese powerbrokers, sports-related or otherwise, to get angry and make threats against the league.

    The NBA then issued an apology that was met with derision, as plenty of analysts complained that the NBA as an entity were putting money before human decency.

    The tweet from Morey that set it off included an image but the words were: "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong."

    Morey quickly deleted it, but the damage was done, so much so that a week later three-time NBA champion James, back to the relative safety of Los Angeles is now talking to the media about it.

    And the statement he made actually condemned Morey, as he accused the Rockets GM of not being "educated" on the China situation with Hong Kong when he sent the tweet supporting protesters.

    "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," James told reporters before the Lakers' preseason game against Golden State.

    "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."

    That remark was met with enough criticism that James, like the NBA, was accused by many of being all about the money.

    The reason being is that the NBA wants to do business with China, desperately.

    Basketball is the most watched sport in the country that spawned former Houston Rockets star and number one NBA draft pick in the class of 2002 and current president of the Chinese Basketball Association, Yao Ming.

    The business the NBA does there, as per a 2018 Forbes report that cites NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, is worth an astonishing $US4 billion, including a recent spate of preseason games, two of which featured James's Lakers.

    Perhaps it is little wonder then that James's response followed the lead of NBA, which publicly scalded Morey in a statement.

    "We are extremely disappointed in the inappropriate remarks made by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey," it said at the time.

    But just as the NBA did, James attempted to clarify his comments on the issue with a couple of tweets of his own, insisting he was simply suggesting Morey's tweets could have put James and his teammates in some kind of danger.

    "Let me clear up the confusion. I do not believe there was any consideration for the consequences and ramifications of the tweet," James tweeted.

    "I'm not discussing the substance. Others can talk about that.

    "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."

    When it comes to the substance, one particularly notable NBA player was keen to add his scorn for James' comments via social media.

    That man was Boston Celtics centre Enes Kanter, who was clearly astonished by James comments, responding with the acronym SMH (shaking my head), before launching into a tirade about how "freedom is not free".

    Kanter, who the NBA has openly allowed to speak his mind frequently on his views on his native Turkey and the Erdogan administration, is possibly a little upset at the perceived double standard and the alleged abuse of freedoms in Hong Kong, as he himself cannot go back to his native Turkey and had his passport revoked.

    He was not the only one displeased with the discourse around the NBA and China. Earlier in the week US politicians attacked the NBA over their stance.

    "It's clear that the NBA is more interested in money than human rights. The NBA is kowtowing to Beijing to protect their bottom line and disavowing those with the temerity to stand with Hong Kong. Shameful," Florida senator Rick Scott said.

    "The NBA wants money, and the Communist Party of China is asking them to deny the most basic of human rights. In response, the NBA issued a statement saying money is the most important thing," his colleague, Ben Sasse, said.

    And now James's statement has again raised the issue, as the storm surrounding the NBA's China link continues to grow.


    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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