NBA star LeBron James defended players’ rights to speak out on political issues but said they should be able to decide which topics to weigh in on, amid criticism over his comments on China.
James called it “a tough situation” and said he “won’t talk about it again” after he received backlash for comments critical of Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who tweeted in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
“I think when the issue comes up, if you feel passionate about it or you feel like it’s something you want to talk about, then so be it,” he said. “I also don’t think every issue should be everybody’s problem as well.”
The basketball star said he thinks there are many domestic issues that are not discussed on a national platform “enough.”
“There’s things that happen in my own community,” he said, adding that he’s “trying to make sure the inner city kids that grew up in my hometown can have a brighter future and look at me as inspiration to get out of the hellhole of the inner city.”
But for now, James said he “won’t talk about” the Hong Kong controversy again and will focus on winning a championship.
“I’d be cheating my teammates by continuing to harp on something that won’t benefit us trying to win a championship because that’s what we’re here for,” he said. “We’re not politicians.
“We are leaders and we can step up at times,” he added. “There’s times where — I’m not saying this particular instance — but if you don’t feel like you should speak on things, you shouldn’t have to.”
I asked LeBron James on his response to the criticism on not speaking out on a freedom of speech/human rights issue. His response pic.twitter.com/3ub5hYsa22
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) October 15, 2019
James was drawn into the NBA-China controversy when he told reporters Monday that Morey “wasn’t educated on the situation at hand” when he tweeted in support of the pro-democracy Hong Kong protests. The basketball star faced backlash from politicians and other NBA players for his comments.
Morey’s tweet prompted a firestorm in China, where businesses moved to cut ties with the Rockets. The NBA called the general manager’s actions “regrettable” last week and initially apologized to China, which brought criticism from lawmakers in both parties on Capitol Hill.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver later said the league was committed to free speech for its players, coaches and executives.