Then-Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters, who were trying to maintain and expand their freedoms. The tweet caused an international firestorm. Even after Morey left for the 76ers, controversy remains around the tweet, China’s response and the NBA’s response.
Nobody reacted quite like LeBron James.
LeBron and the Lakers were in China for a preseason game at the time of the tweet. LeBron pressed NBA commissioner Adam Silver to punish Morey then, after returning stateside, called Morey uneducated on the situation.
Lakers forward Jared Dudley in “Inside the NBA Bubble,” via Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen & Roll:
Back in the United States, Houston GM Daryl Morey tweets out sentiments that the Chinese government takes as an attack. And we’re the most high-profile American citizens in China at the time. Now he’s made things very hot for us. We were supposed to appear at a Special Olympics benefit event in Shanghai. You can see this giant twelve-story billboard from our hotel, which is advertising our appearance, and we watch in awe as they take it down.
There are people surrounding the hotel where we’re staying. We’re getting death threats from pro-government people. We can’t leave. We didn’t practice. We didn’t take any tours. We just came over here because it’s our job to play the game, because the league wants to make money in the huge market. Now we’re not entirely sure if and when we’re going to see our families again.
Adam Silver comes to China, literally sweating, to help cool things off for us. He has to negotiate his way in just to be able to see us and ensure our safe passage out of there. We just wanted to play our games and get the hell out. So when LeBron criticizes Daryl Morey for that tweet, everyone acts like he’s standing against free speech, but what he’s really saying is: You tweet something like that from the comfort of your own home, while actual players in your league are stranded in China, that’s not cool. You need to think for a minute about what the impact of that is on other people. Everyone’s hating on Bron, talking about how disappointed they are in him, but we see where he’s coming from.
Let me get this straight: The NBA sent the Lakers to a place so they felt was so dangerous, someone else’s tweet led to them to fear for their freedom and safety.
And they’re mad at Morey?