It appears that social justice causes have a strict geographic (and financial) limit — at least for NBA player LeBron James. James, who has defended such protests as the NFL kneelers, ridiculed the tweet by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey in supporting protesters in Hong Kong fighting for the most basic human rights and democratic power. James said that Morey was “misinformed” and an example of being “not informed about something.” What was Morey misinformed of? The denial of free speech, democratic rights, or basic human rights? How about the threat of Chinese President Xi Jinping to fill the streets with “crushed bodies and shattered bones“? The view of the NBA, and James, appears that Morey was not informed about the billions of dollars to be made in China or the price of supporting people fighting for freedom.
Of course, the NFL kneelers are millionaires who (with the exception of Colin Kaepernik) have suffered no professional cost to their protests while the people of Hong Kong are risking their lives for the most fundamental human rights.
Yet, James had nothing but contempt for a manager who would send out a tweet repeating the slogan “Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” Moreover, James was careful not to criticize the league which has been denounced for not only kowtowing to an authoritarian regime but forcing the curtailment of free speech. James insisted “I’m not here to judge how the league handled the situation.” Perish the thought, LeBron. He then added
“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. 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.”
Harm what people? The people fighting in Hong Kong or the wealthy players and owners in the NBA who desperately want to sellout to a brutal regime?
James quickly saw that his groveling statements might come back to cost him as people rose up to denounce him and his motivations. He then pivoted with a bizarre reframing of his earlier comments. He insisted that he was only talking about the timing: “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.” Yes, the tweet can support people fighting now for freedom without a thought to the profits of the league. Of course, those people in Hong Kong risking years in prison make virtually nothing and attract few crowds. However, they have formed a crowd of people who are willing of risk everything for a fraction of the freedoms that James enjoys.
James has shown with other super-wealthy players like Rockets player James Harden that a social cause is only as viable as it remains profitable.