Colin Kaepernick. Muhammed Ali. LeBron James?
For decades, athletes have stood up to political injustices and spoken up about problems that affect them directly. From the Vietnam War to police brutality, there has been no shortage of opportunities for household names like Kaepernick and Muhammed Ali. Yet, in the case of LeBron James, he might be trying too hard on this one.
In recent weeks, the National Basketball Association has been embroiled in a fiasco after Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of democracy in China. This resulted in pandemonium and a flurry of events being axed at the last second.
The rich relationship between China and the NBA covers about 18 years. In 2002, the Houston Rockets drafted Chinese phenom, Yao Ming, with their first pick, resulting in the Rockets instantly becoming the communist country’s favorite sports team. Since then, the relationship between the NBA and China has created an immense cash flow, with many stars touring the country for their sneaker deals. In 2004, the first China games were held, and 15 years later they are now up in the air.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets were scheduled to play two games in China on Oct. 10 and 12, however posters advertising the game were being quickly torn off within hours before tip-off. It resulted in a frenzy between both teams wondering if the game would even be played.
The backlash was quick and harsh.
Multiple NBA Cares events were canceled abruptly, as well as players being rushed off the court 30 minutes into their shootaround. Workers then proceeded to tear down sponsors’ advertisements on the hardwood floor because they had all pulled out of support for the games. According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN, an unknown Lakers player signed a $1 million endorsement deal with a Chinese company prior to the trip. The deal was called off when he arrived in Shanghai.
The aftermath was ugly and unfortunate.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver immediately defended Daryl Morey’s tweet, stating that it was “freedom of expression.” Interestingly, Silver was also directed by members of the Chinese government to fire Morey, but he quickly mentioned that he would do no such thing. Many Chinese fans hid their faces when NBA officials pointed cameras at them supporting the games between the Nets and Lakers. Fans were even handed Chinese flags upon entering the stadium, and some fans took off their jerseys once the game concluded in fear of cameras exposing themselves to the government. Media members were unable to speak to players during the entire trip, leaving LeBron to bottle in some of his thoughts.
It was not a good idea.
Two weeks ago we finally heard from the NBAs top political correspondent, LeBron James, and his thoughts on the situation. James adamantly mentioned Morey was “[not] educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke.”
In what aspect was Morey uneducated on the topic of China? A country where citizens are fighting against the oppression of their hierarchy. Or was James saying Morey was uneducated on the amount of money the NBA could lose because of a broken relationship?
Clearly, LeBron lacked knowledge in this situation as his mindset mostly revolves around the dollar sign. China is by far the greatest business partner that the NBA has and with LeBron’s heavy history of Nike trips to the country, he is evidently worried about the financial hardships which would come as a result of a bad relationship. Silver’s stance also proves evidence of the NBA being too invested in the business side of the game, instead of standing up for what is correct.
The comments made by James are also hypocritical. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day last year, he tweeted, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Does this stand true for a country where James unloads thousands of his jerseys and shoes for sale?
In recent history, James has been a political figure in the league. He called President Trump a “bum” on Twitter, organized his fellow Miami Heat teammates wearing hoodies in support of Trayvon Martin, and his support of Colin Kaepernick’s protests.
However, on the topic of China, LeBron should have taken the road of what he usually does during clutch moments at the end of the game: let someone else handle the situation.