LeBron James was reportedly steamed over the 2019 tweet from former Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey supporting Hong Kong protesters in their fight against a national security law.
Morey had tweeted in the NBA preseason about his support for Hong Kong protesters and it had a ripple effect overseas just as the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets were set to play a preseason game in China ahead of the start of the season. Morey would later delete the tweet and release a statement, saying: “I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.”
The damage to the league’s reputation in the communist country was already done.
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A demonstrator wears a LeBron James mask during the Face Mask Way event in Hong Kong, China, on Oct. 18, 2019.
A demonstrator wears a LeBron James mask during the Face Mask Way event in Hong Kong, China, on Oct. 18, 2019. (Justin Chin/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
New details about the tweet and the fallout emerged in an ESPN report on Thursday.
James and Nets team owner Joe Tsai, who has deep connections to the Chinese government, pushed against Morey after the tweet, according to ESPN. But those assertions were reportedly denied.
The Lakers superstar was working on the movie “Space Jam: A New Legacy” at the time and, according to ESPN, “raged” to players about Morey. James’ movie would never get released in China, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
As the games went on, James and the players overseas in China stayed silent on the matter.
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Workers pull down a banner advertising the Brooklyn Nets-Los Angeles Lakers game in Shanghai, China, on Oct. 9, 2019.
Workers pull down a banner advertising the Brooklyn Nets-Los Angeles Lakers game in Shanghai, China, on Oct. 9, 2019. (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
When back at the then-Staples Center, James spoke out.
“I’m not here to judge how the league handled the situation. I just think that, when you’re misinformed or you’re not educated about something – and I’m just talking about the tweet itself – you never know the ramifications that can happen,” he said.
“We all see what that did, not only did for our league but for all of us in America, for people in China as well. Sometimes you have to think through the things that you say that may cause harm not only for yourself but for the majority of people. I think that’s just a prime example of that.”
Tsai was alleged to have been pushing the NBA to fire Morey over the tweet, but the Nets denied the claim.
“Joe Tsai did not speak to any owners about Mr. Morey after the tweet and it’s absolutely false that he advocated for anything to happen to Morey,” Nets spokesperson Mandy Gutmann told ESPN. “Only the Rockets make personnel decisions about their team.”