NBA star Lebron James continues to face backlash for his criticism of Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s support for Hong Kong protests, including now from Hong Kong protesters themselves.
On Monday night, James appeared to criticize an already deleted tweet by Morey – “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong” – for upsetting Chinese censors and resulting in Chinese broadcasters canceling broadcasts for an exhibition basketball game featuring his team, the Los Angeles Lakers. By Tuesday night, protesters in Hong Kong were seen burning James’ jersey in response, according to the Associated Press.
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) October 15, 2019
Hong Kong protesters staged a basketball-themed demonstration on Tuesday. The protesters trampled on jerseys bearing James’ name and gathered to watch one burn. They also taped a picture of his face to the backboard of a basketball hoop and cheered when basketballs struck his image before dropping into the basket.
The protests came as an apparent reaction to James’ Monday comments at a press engagement, where James said Morey was “misinformed” to weigh in on the controversy between the Chinese government and protesters in Hong Kong who have held more than four months of demonstrations against increasing Chinese authority over the city.
At one point in his Monday press comments, James warned about the negative consequences of having the freedom of speech and said “many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually,” by Morey’s comments in support of the Hong Kong protests.
Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley criticized James’ specific remarks about the potential for harm caused by Morey’s comments.
“News flash: people ARE being harmed – shot, beaten, gassed – right now in Hong Kong. By China. By the Communist Party the NBA is so eager to appease,” Hawley said.
This statement is unbelievable. “So many people could have been harmed”? By Daryl Morey daring to express sympathy for democracy? News flash: people ARE being harmed – shot, beaten, gassed – right now in Hong Kong. By China. By the Communist Party the NBA is so eager to appease
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) October 15, 2019
Hawley also called on James to meet with Hong Kong protesters who he said are risking their lives in their protest.
When asked Tuesday about the backlash he faced over his Monday comments, James seemed ready to avoid the question, according to Business Insider.
“I talked about it yesterday,” James said. “I tweeted out a couple responses to people not understanding my knowledge, and where it came from, and me learning from the situation. I’m talking about it now. And I probably won’t talk about it again because I’d be cheating my teammates.”
The recent backlash against James is just one part of ongoing controversy for the NBA after the league drew distance from Morey’s offending remarks and apologized to China for Morey’s remarks. While James and other members of the basketball league have previously been outspoken about social justice issues, they have been avoidant of questions about China’s concerning human rights record.