EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — LeBron James said Tuesday he had not seen reports of protesters in Hong Kong trampling on his jerseys, and even watching one burn, following his comments about Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet that sparked turmoil and tension between China and the NBA.
A day after saying he believed Morey “wasn’t educated” on the ramifications and impact that sending out a tweet in support of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong would have, James was asked whether he had a sense of how his own comments would be felt in Hong Kong among protesters.
“No, I had a sense of [how] what I said felt for me,” James said after the Los Angeles Lakers’ practice. “And like I said yesterday, when I speak upon things, I speak from a very logical standpoint on things that hit home for me. Yesterday, obviously, I gave thoughts on what I felt and how I saw things that transpired from that week that we were [in China].”
Saying this would be the last time he addressed the turmoil between China and the NBA that resulted from Morey’s Oct. 4 tweet, James said he hopes tension between the parties will subside over time.
“I plan on being here and being a captain of this team and trying to figure out how we can win a championship,” James said when asked whether he plans to learn more about the anti-government protests in Hong Kong. “That’s my main goal right now. I feel like I talked about it yesterday. I tweeted out responses to people not understanding my knowledge and where it came from with my brain and learning from the situation. I’m talking about it now. I won’t talk about it again.
“I’d be cheating my teammates by continuing to harp on something that won’t benefit us. We’re trying to win a championship. That’s what we’re here for. We’re not politicians. It’s a huge political thing. But we are leaders and we can step up at times. I’m not saying at this particular time, but if you don’t feel like you should speak on things, you shouldn’t have to.”
On Tuesday in Hong Kong, fans gathered on courts to express frustration with James’ comments the night before. James, who has not shied away from speaking out about social injustice issues here in the United States, said Monday that he felt Morey wasn’t educated or was “misinformed” before sending out that tweet and how “so many people could have been harmed not only financially, physically, emotionally, spiritually.”
After Morey’s tweet created an international controversy between China and the NBA, the Rockets general manager deleted it and attempted to clarify his intent in subsequent tweets. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta denounced the original tweet and said the Rockets, who previously enjoyed immense popularity in China, were “not a political organization” and that Morey did not speak for the team.
Following his initial comments on Morey’s tweet on Monday evening, James took to Twitter to clarify his comments and “clear up the confusion.” He tweeted, “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,” before adding how tough a situation the Lakers found themselves in during their visit to China and saying that people need to understand “what a tweet or statement can do to others.”
James reiterated Tuesday that he will address issues he is passionate and knowledgeable about.
“It’s a tough situation we’re all in right now with the association, us as athletes, GMs and owners and so forth,” James said. “I also don’t think every issue should be everybody’s problem as well. When things come up, there’s multiple things that we haven’t talked about that have happened in our own country that we don’t bring up. There’s things that happen in my own community in trying to help my kids graduate high school and go off to college; that’s been my main concern the last couple of years with my school [in Akron, Ohio]. Trying to make sure the inner-city kids that grow up in my hometown can have a brighter future and look at me as an inspiration to get out of the hellhole of the inner city.
“We don’t talk about those stories enough. We want to talk about so many other things as well. There’s issues all over the world. I think the best thing we can do is if you feel passionate about it, talk about it. If you don’t have a lot of knowledge about it or quite understand it, I don’t think you should talk about it because it puts you in a tough position.”
When asked about the China situation, LA Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said that Morey “was right in saying” what he tweeted but clarified through a Clippers spokesperson that he was defending Morey’s ability to exercise freedom of speech. A week ago, Rivers backed NBA commissioner Adam Silver defending NBA employees’ right to freedom of speech but added that it comes with consequences. The Clippers coach reiterated that again.
“I don’t know,” Rivers said when asked about the China-NBA firestorm on Tuesday at the Clippers’ open practice at USC. “I didn’t pay much attention to it other than what [Morey] said and he was right in saying that, but there’s consequences to every action as well. I’ve been saying that … It’s a tough issue, clearly, and that’s what it is.”
James has often been the voice for the NBA and players. He understands people look for his take on even the most complicated matters.
“For me personally, I felt that I’ve tried to heal things throughout my whole life by just being who I am,” James said. “And playing the game that I love, playing it at a high level, and that has brought a lot of people together, playing the game the right way with my teammates, being a model citizen in the community, being a respectful son, respectful husband, respectful dad and understanding that every time I leave the house, that it is so much bigger than just myself personally.
“Obviously, I’m not perfect; none of us are,” he added. “But I try to do things that make my family proud, make my fans proud every time I step out of the house, so that for me is what it is.”
Asked whether he would have been more comfortable with Morey sending out that tweet a week later, after the Lakers spent a tension-filled week in China and played two games against the Brooklyn Nets, James said, “Hindsight is 20/20 at this point.”
“We don’t know the landscape of the situation if a week would’ve went by and a tweet would’ve happened,” James added. “It’s easy to say. But we have no idea. It was a challenging trip for all of us that were in China. If you were not there, then you just can’t relate.
“The best thing we can do is continue to play the game of basketball, and I believe the game of basketball and the word sport has always brought people together for the great of love and not the great of hate,” James added. “And I think this is the greatest sport in the world. And obviously it is a small bump in the road, but I think time heals all.”