It’s always interesting to hear how freely professional athletes are willing to express themselves about world matters. Who knew they were blessed with ambassadorial insight into issues that regularly vex world governments.
We talked to you last week about the mess the NBA has been in with China since Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for protesters in Hong Kong.
It caused a huge diplomatic scene between two big-time business partners that spilled over last week in some grandstanding by the Chinese government during the league’s visit to stage a pair of preseason games between the Lakers and Nets.
One of the things the government did was ban media access to players, coaches and, most importantly, NBA commissioner Adam Silver while the games were going on. China’s government has a tight grip on what’s said and written in their nation and it apparently did not want the support of Morey making its way back to the United States while the league was still on its soil.
But now that everyone is home and preparing for the start of the season, the media has been reaching out to league emissaries for their opinions about what’s been going on. And in Los Angeles, that means people have been banging on LeBron James’ door.
James has never been shy when it comes to sharing his feelings. His impression is that his status as the league’s interstellar icon offers the forum to express his frame of mind about issues you might think someone like himself wouldn’t have the institutional knowledge to discuss.
James was at it again on Monday when he was asked about Morey’s tweet and the fallout.
“I don’t want to get into a [verbal] feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke,” said James before a preseason game against the Warriors at Staples Center. “And so many people could have been harmed not only financially, physically, emotionally, spiritually. So just be careful what we tweet and say and we do, even though, yes, we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that, too.”
When pressed further, James said he really didn’t have a good reason to substantiate his beliefs. He said it was just how he felt.
“I believe he was either misinformed or not really educated on the situation, and if he was, then so be it,” James said. “I have no idea, but that is just my belief. Because when you say things or do things if you are doing it and you know the people that can be affected by it and the families and individuals and everyone that can be affected by it, sometimes things can be changed as well. And also social media is not always the proper way to go about things as well, but that’s just my belief.”
As you might imagine, James’ words soon crisscrossed the world on social media and much of the initial response was not supportive.
Here’s why: There are a lot of people in the United States who felt Morey’s support of the protestors was justified from both a political and personal sense whether he was fully informed or not.
Say what you will about the cushy nature of China’s relationship with the NBA, but living there for those who do not support the prevailing state stance on human rights find the situation a bit constricting, to say the least.
Morey was simply defending and supporting the rights of the protestors to speak out about what they perceive to be social injustice and hardship. Good for him.
What’s wrong with that?
James then went back on social media to clarify his statements.
“I do not believe there was any consideration for the consequences and ramifications of the tweet. I’m not discussing the substance. Others can talk about that,” James tweeted.
Sure, LeBron. Just ignore what’s been happening in Hong Kong because it had the chance to disrupt the billion-dollar business plan carefully crafted between the NBA and China over the years.
You know what, maybe the NBA should have thought twice about doing business with a government that goes out of its way to forcibly suppress dissent.
As it turns out, Silver held meetings with players from both the Nets and Lakers last week which sources told ESPN were tense. Apparently, the players did not appreciate being put into the middle of an international rhubarb.
Here’s the interesting part: The players wanted to know if the NBA planned on punishing Morey for his tweet, apparently angry it might cost them money by damaging the relationship between the league and China.
As of now, Silver has no plans to take action against Morey, correctly explaining he also was simply exercising his right to free speech.
“I think that is another situation that should stay behind closed doors,” James said. “We are to see what happens with any of our players or with an owner or with a GM at a later date. I think we all sit back and learn from the situation that happened and understand that what you could tweet or could say – we all talk about freedom of speech. Yes, we do have freedom of speech, but at times, there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you are not thinking about others and only thinking about yourself.”
It seems to us the real issue here was the fear NBA players have about losing financial opportunities in Asia because of their officials had the courage to speak up for the rights of those who feel suppressed.
Maybe LeBron needs to educate himself before the next time he takes a stance. Or maybe he shouldn’t say anything at all. It’s none of his business.