LeBron James criticized Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, author of a tweet about the protests in Hong Kong in the middle of a dispute between the NBA and China on Monday, believing he did not know enough about the situation.
"I do not want to enter into a dispute of words or phrases with Daryl Morey. But I think I did not know enough about the situation in question and spoke (…) or was poorly informed or did not know enough about the situation," James said before of the Lakers preseason game against the Golden State Warriors.
"Many people could have been harmed not only financially but also physically, emotionally and spiritually, so be careful what we tweet, say and do."
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"Yes, we have freedom of expression, but there can also be many negative things that come with that," added one of the top stars in the league.
Minutes after his statements, James made a clarification on Twitter: "I don't think the consequences and ramifications of the tweet have been considered. I don't discuss the content. Others can talk about it."
Due to the scandal, several activities with the players were also canceled, as was the press availability with the teams and some Chinese sponsorships. / RETAMAL HECTOR / AFP /
"My team and the league have just gone through a difficult week. People must understand the consequences that a tweet could have on others. And I think that nobody stopped and considered what would happen. He could have waited a week to write it," he wrote. James.
Hong Kong, a former British colony that passed under Chinese control in 1997 and is an autonomous territory, has been shaken since June by increasingly violent protests calling for more democratic freedoms.
James said Morey was thinking about himself when he made his comment.
"There are negative ramifications that can happen when you don't think of others, when you only think of yourself," said the player who has a lifetime support agreement worth tens of millions of dollars with Nike, and has made a dozen of trips to China with the company.
The government and many Chinese Internet users have expressed their rejection of Morey's tweet, seen as a challenge to the territorial integrity of the country. But the NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, refused to apologize for the tweet.
"I don't come here, either as an NBA commissioner or as an American, to tell others how they should run their governments," Silver said.
The Chinese market is the most important that the NBA has abroad, with more than 500 million viewers, who watched at least one game during last season. / REUTERS / Aly Song / Archive /
"We are not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression."
As for the NBA broadcasts from Chinese television, Silver said: "It's unfortunate, but if those are the consequences of adhering to our values, we still feel it is vitally important that we adhere to those values."
According to several newspaper sources, including the ESPN television network, Silver held a tense meeting with Lakers and Brooklyn Nets players when he arrived in Shanghai from Japan, where he made the first statements on the matter.
During the meeting several prominent players expressed frustration at having perceived that they were being involved in the middle of the dispute between the NBA and China, and said they were not happy that in China journalists asked them to give their opinion, without actually knowing thoroughly the matter.