It was all good just a week ago. Well, kind of.
That was when LeBron James didn’t have too much to say about the protests in Hong Kong in the wake of Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey‘s tweet heard ’round the world that upset the powerfully wealthy Chinese government, with whom the NBA (and by default, LeBron) have a very financially cozy relationship with.
The ripple effect’s waves seemed to be dying down. That is, until James inserted himself right into the middle of what’s now become a tsunami of geopolitics and the sports world colliding in what appeared to be one big money grab. At least, that was the perception after LeBron told a reporter on Monday that he thought Morey’s tweet “wasn’t educated on the situation at hand.”
After receiving instant backlash, LeBron tried, and seemingly failed, to clarify his comments.
To be clear, “the situation at hand,” as CNN explained, was “sparked by widespread opposition to a now-shelved extradition bill, but have since expanded to demands for full democracy and police accountability.” Among the protesters’ demands are for the government to “withdraw the bill, for leader Carrie Lam to step down, an inquiry into police brutality, for those who have been arrested to be released, and greater democratic freedoms.”
If not, it should, as those demands pretty much mirror those here in the U.S. from many critics of President Donald Trump‘s administration, which has also been accused of unfair extraditions/deportations, encouraging police brutality, jailing innocent people and encroaching on people’s civil liberties.
In fact, one of those accusers seemed to be LeBron just last year when he tweeted that an “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
LeBron has also been pretty vocal about bringing attention to the epidemic of police killing unarmed Black people in America.
That’s why it was such a surprise to many that LeBron’s latest comments seemed to offer support for a Communist Chinese government that’s been accused of oppression instead of extending sympathy to the citizens demonstrating for human rights.
Scrutiny has come down on the NBA, too, including accusations of placating a repressive regime by continuing to hold its scheduled preseason games in China even after the country took deliberate moves to sever ties with the league. That led some people on social media to suggest that Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s racist attack on James last year when she told him to “shut up and dribble” may actually have some merit in this particular instance.
That sentiment was lent even more credence last week when a reporter asked NBA superstar James Harden his thoughts on the matter during a Q&A session with the media. The reporter was quickly admonished for her line of questioning not being related to basketball (even though it was relevant) and Harden, sitting next to former MVP Russell Westbrook, remained silent — or, “shut up” — as if they were coached against saying anything.
In the end, it seemed like it was actually LeBron — and not Morey — who “wasn’t educated on the situation at hand.” And Twitter users noticed. Scroll down to see a sample of some of the treatment LeBron got on social media after his comments on China.