LOS ANGELES — LeBron James believes Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey “wasn’t educated” before he sent the tweet in support of antigovernment protesters in Hong Kong that damaged relations between China and the NBA.
Speaking to the media for the first time since Morey’s tweet on Oct. 4 set off a firestorm, James declined to comment about the politically tense situation between China and the NBA but did talk about Morey’s tweet and how it has jeopardized the relationship between China and the league, owners, teams and players.
“I don’t want to get into a [verbal] feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke,” James said before the Los Angeles Lakers played the Golden State Warriors in a preseason game at Staples Center. “And so many people could have been harmed not only financially, physically, emotionally, spiritually. So just be careful what we tweet and say and we do, even though, yes, we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that, too.”
When asked why he thinks Morey wasn’t properly informed about the unrest in Hong Kong before he tweeted support for protesters, James said it is “just my belief.”
“I believe he was either misinformed or not really educated on the situation, and if he was, then so be it,” James said. “I have no idea, but that is just my belief. Because when you say things or do things, if you are doing it and you know the people that can be affected by it and the families and individuals and everyone that can be affected by it, sometimes things can be changed as well. And also social media is not always the proper way to go about things as well, but that’s just my belief.”
Soon after speaking with reporters, James took to social media to “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,” James said in a tweet.
“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,” James added in a second tweet.
Hong Kong has seen months of protests and increasing violence between demonstrators and police sparked by a proposal that would have allowed extradition from the semiautonomous territory to mainland China.
The Lakers played two preseason games against the Brooklyn Nets in China, and the situation was tense. The teams did not know if the games would be played upon their arrival in Shanghai, where NBA commissioner Adam Silver held a tense meeting with players from both teams last week, sources told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols.
During the meeting, sources said, several prominent players voiced frustration about their perception that they were being put in the middle of the dispute between the NBA and China, and they said they were unhappy about being asked by local Chinese reporters to address the situation before Silver was scheduled to do so.
“I think when we talk about the political side, it was a very delicate situation, a very sensitive situation,” James said. “And for me personally, you guys know that when I speak about something, I speak about something I’m very knowledgeable about, something I’m very passionate about. I feel like with this particular situation, it was something not only I was not informed enough about … I just felt like it was something that not only myself or my teammates or my organization had enough information to even talk about it at that point in time, and we still feel the same way.”
After Morey’s tweet created an international controversy, the Rockets general manager deleted it and attempted to clarify his intent in subsequent tweets. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta denounced the original tweet and said that the Rockets were “not a political organization” and Morey did not speak for the team.
During the meeting with the players, sources said, Silver was asked whether anything would happen to Morey, as several players said that they believed if a player cost the NBA millions of dollars because of a tweet, there would be repercussions.
Morey will not face any league discipline for the tweet, and Silver defended NBA employees’ right to freedom of speech.
James declined to comment on players’ voicing their concerns to Silver during that meeting.
“I think that is another situation that should stay behind closed doors,” James said. “We are to see what happens with any of our players or with an owner or with a GM at a later date. I think we all sit back and learn from the situation that happened and understand that what you could tweet or could say — we all talk about freedom of speech. Yes, we do have freedom of speech, but at times, there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you are not thinking about others and only thinking about yourself.”
“I think Adam has always been receptive about what the players, the coaches, the owners, whoever has comments about our league,” James added of Silver. “… It was a tough situation for Adam as well, having to put out such a fire that he didn’t create, that he didn’t start.”
James said he will return to China when the opportunity presents itself.
“For me personally, I’ve always been welcomed with open arms,” James said. “I’ve been to China probably over 15 to 20 times. The main reason why I always wanted to go to China was the game of basketball. The game of basketball has brought people together, in so many different facets, so many different countries, so many different people that you would never, ever expect.
“That has always been my goal, going over to China, the game that we all love and talk about every single day, to bring people together in the most positive way. That is why we were there this past trip. Myself, the Lakers, along with Brooklyn, we were there to continue to promote the game of basketball. … That is what I will continue to do because this sport has done so much for me.”