LeBron James has become a staple for opining on social and political issues, breaking away from the mold of the Tom Bradys and the Michael Jordans of the world, who often kept quiet and protected their brand. But Monday night’s comments on Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey were a complete disgrace and an all-time low in what’s been considered a pristine 16-year career in the league.
The Los Angeles Lakers star didn’t play in Monday’s 104-98 preseason win over the Golden State Warriors, but he made his impact felt with some strong thoughts on the feud between China and the NBA, though choosing to take aim at Morey’s pro-Hong Kong tweet instead.
Asked if he felt Morey should have been reprimanded for his use of free speech, James had a dumbfounding take to the situation:
“I think that’s another situation that should stay behind closed doors… I think when we all sit back and learn from the situation that happened, understand that what you could tweet or could say… We all talk about this freedom of speech. Yes, we all do 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.”
Hold up… so what part of posting an image with “Fight for freedom, Stand with Hong Kong” — a tweet that was sent as an act of solidarity for a country that’s trying to bring democracy into its realm — is Morey thinking about himself?
But just wait, this gets even better…
“I don’t want to get into a word or sentence feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke. And so many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. So just be careful what we tweet and what we say, and what we do. Even though yes, we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that too.”
James’ comments went immediately viral and were received with abhorrence, as he first called Morey uneducated on a matter he chose to support, then passively blamed him for the fallout that ensued.
A follow-up question was asked, only for King James to walk it all the way back and say that it’s just his belief that Morey was “misinformed,” to the surprise of journalists present.
“That’s just my belief. I don’t know. That’s my belief. That’s all I can say,” said James. “I believe he was either misinformed or not really educated on the situation. And if he was, then so be it, but I have no idea. That’s just my belief that when you say things or do things, and you know the people that can be affected by it, and the families and the individuals and everyone that can be affected by it, sometimes things can be changed. And also sometimes social media is not always the proper way to go about things as well. But that’s just my belief.”
So how exactly was Morey misinformed? LeBron didn’t care to elaborate, hoping the assumption was enough to make his statement resonate. And boy did it do just that…
Only minutes before Warriors vs. Lakers tipped-off at 7:40 p.m. PT, James took to social media, the very vehicle he just called “not always the proper way to go about things” — to walk his statement back by saying Morey wasn’t aware of the consequences his pro-Hong Kong tweet would have.
Let me clear up the confusion. 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.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) October 15, 2019
Hindsight is indeed a beautiful gift, isn’t it?
My team and this league just went through a difficult week. I think people need to understand what a tweet or statement can do to others. And I believe nobody stopped and considered what would happen. Could have waited a week to send it.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) October 15, 2019
But how would he, Mr. James?
Morey was born in Wisconsin, grew up in Ohio, and has lived his life used to having his freedom of speech throughout his 47 years of existence. Going to another country doesn’t robotically put the values he’s been inculcated on airplane mode. Naturally, Morey wasn’t thinking of an obsessive Chinese government prying on his every tweet, but neither was Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, MVP runner-up James Harden, or NBA Commissioner Adam Silver — all who were forced to knee-jerk reactions at the wake of China’s furious response.
For James to be the father of hindsight and finally speak after two weeks of silence and still have this poor of a take on such a caustic chain of events, is unlike him — but it did happen, in all its tragic majesty.
This will call for appreciating the likes of Steve Kerr and Draymond Green for admittedly declining to comment on a topic they weren’t really knowledgeable about, or Gregg Popovich, who manages to delight with insightfulness and the right pulse for the situation.
But let’s analyze this recent tweet and read between the lines: James is upset his team had a literal trip to China and back — yet received none of the perks he’s used to enjoying during his trips there. He admitted so here:
“I think the great thing about it is that we did get an opportunity to be together a lot more,” said James of the Lakers’ trip to China. “A lot of individual appearances got canceled, and so it kept us even closer. It allowed guys to not be able to go on their own and obviously a lot of people had some business to take care of while they were over there. Business and basketball. But with the cancellation of so many different events and different appearances, it allowed us to be together. All of us, just our whole team.”
The Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets were slated to play two games as part of the NBA China Games, only to have all the promotional gags pulled days prior to the first game in Shanghai, which the teams played with no sponsors and no press conferences to follow. The same was true for the second game in Shenzhen, which received a similar treatment.
James coming to China is a big deal. James coming anywhere is a big deal. So imagine his surprise when hordes of loyal Chinese fans were no longer showing up at the arena’s entrance, but rather only a couple dozen brave souls, covering their faces in front of cameras to not be seen by their own government as supporters of the NBA.
The King rakes in millions from Nike sales in China, along with the sheer number of jersey sales and the promotional aspects of being there to fulfill them.
Regardless if James is a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or what have you — the founding principles of living in the United States are based on the common agreement of democracy. Those are the very seeds with which the founding fathers allowed the roots of this country to grow after declaring independence. For James to say that Morey “could have waited a week to send it” is effectively him telling another grown man to shove it, even if it comes to a noble sentiment.
How Morey did this only “thinking about yourself” is beyond my realm of comprehension.
I’ll admit, I don’t know what Morey was thinking, but I bet it was closer to showing a sign of support for millions in Hong Kong that are in fear that their life is about to change, than improving his international profile as part of his own selfish agenda.
Perhaps what’s more astounding about James’ reactions is that they just happen to be a massive wave of bamboozling contradictions, one after the other — showing that he indeed is speaking out of place.
What’s sad about this is that James has been lauded for his freedom fighter spirit of denouncing poor leadership, standing up for Black Lives Matter, and most-recently supporting the bill that will allow college athletes to profit off their likeness — yet this latest statement just falls flat, revealing the ugly face of landing right into his own turd.
Morey could have lost his job that day. His tweet is literally costing the Rockets millions of dollars in sponsorships and TV rights, likely more than tenfold of what his new contract extension is worth. As a business approach, if keeping an employee is costing me more money than he makes for me, I’d fire him too.
But the longtime executive kept his job, dealing with the sad repercussions of being the one we point to as the spark that lit the flame that engulfed the NBA in a geopolitical strife with China and even their own U.S. representatives, who shamed them for trying to de-escalate the situation.
Instead James is coming in cool, two weeks after the fact, only to disappointingly point his finger at his own NBA brethren and nonchalantly blame him for not anticipating the consequences to his actions.
In the words of world climate activist Greta Thunberg: “How dare you?”
How dare you use Morey as a scape goat, when he was likely seconds away from kicking rocks in the street after his tweet. How dare you assume someone doesn’t know what he stands for, just because it resulted in a week’s inconvenience for you and your team.
No matter how many post-availability tweets James sends to clarify what he said, there’s still plenty of us that can read between the lines and see what this is really about — and that’s him playing cool with those who are responsible for making him millions of dollars.
From such an intelligent and socially-conscious superstar, this Monday’s pre-game availability was truly an all-time low for King James, who couldn’t help himself but offer a slew of contradictions, all while looking “misinformed” on his own.