Basketball superstar LeBron James has added fuel to the fire of the controversy engulfing the NBA over its self-censorship in line with China’s political interests — just as China appeared poised to quietly move toward defusing the issue with a resumption of online streaming for most games after a ban last week.
James was criticized Tuesday for appearing to toe Beijing’s party line after he said the Houston Rockets’ general manager, Daryl Morey, should have kept quiet instead of tweeting a message last week in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters that angered Beijing.
“I don’t want to get into a feud with Daryl, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand and he spoke,” James said in an interview upon his return to Los Angeles after a China tour. “Yes, we all have freedom of speech, but at times there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you’re not thinking about others and you’re only thinking about yourself.”
The NBA has seen 12 of its 25 sponsorship deals with Chinese companies canceled or suspended in the wake of Morey’s tweet. James has a lucrative lifetime endorsement deal with Nike, which counts China as an enormous key market. He also is the star and producer of Warner Bros.’ $100 million “Space Jam 2,” which is set to hit theaters in 2021 and will certainly be seeking to do big business in the Middle Kingdom.
“So many people could have been harmed — not only financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually. So just be careful what we tweet, what we say, and