National Basketball Association (NBA) commentator and basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal voiced support for the general manager of the Houston Rockets on Wednesday over his comments about protests in Hong Kong.
O’Neal said on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” on Tuesday that Daryl Morey was “right” to tweet in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, who have demonstrated for weeks over a now-withdrawn bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited from the city to mainland China for trial.
“Whenever you see something wrong going on anywhere in the world, you should have the right to say ‘That’s not right,’ and that’s what he did,” O’Neal said, according to Reuters.
“Daryl Morey was right,” O’Neal added.
Shaq on Daryl Morey/China “One of our best values here in America is free speech we’re allowed to say what we want to say and we are allowed to speak out on injustices and that’s just how it goes. and if people don’t understand that that’s something they have to deal with. pic.twitter.com/vefcHSPlMD
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) October 22, 2019
O’Neal then explained that Chinese citizens would “have to deal” with U.S. citizens exercising their First Amendment rights, including about Chinese affairs.
“We as American people, we do a lot of business in China and they know and understand our values and we understand their values,” he said, according to Reuters. “And one of our best values here in America is free speech. We’re allowed to say what we want to say and we’re allowed to speak up about injustices and that’s just how it goes. And if people don’t understand that, that’s something that they have to deal with.”
O’Neal’s remarks coincided with the opening of the 2019-2020 NBA season and come after the NBA has faced weeks of controversy in China over Morey’s remarks, which infuriated the Chinese government and led to NBA fan events in the country being canceled.
Morey has since apologized and deleted his tweet, while the response to his actions from the NBA has garnered widespread criticism in the U.S.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver faced pushback after first apologizing for the tweet before reversing course and saying that he supports free speech.