Another professional basketball athlete has chimed in on the ongoing feud between the National Basketball Association and the Communist centralized government in China.
Adding to LeBron James’s previous comments, fellow NBA athlete Kyrie Irving hedged on the feud when he addressed the media.
As background, the NBA and China are at a standstill when Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. Morey deleted the tweet, but the damage was done, with Chinese businesses withdrawing partnerships and sponsorships and canceling a charity event in China. Media availability was also nixed for NBA players who were playing preseason games in China.
LeBron James criticized Morey’s tweet as “uninformed” and received significant backlash for not addressing the human rights abuses under the Chinese government. Instead, he mentioned how free speech can have negative consequences, which some interpreted it as protecting his financial investments in China. James is an outspoken social justice advocate and his comments, in the minds of some critics, appeared to sell out his values in favor of financial investments.
Irving plays for the Brooklyn Nets NBA franchise and at one point, was a teammate of LeBron James in Cleveland, Ohio. The Nets played the Toronto Raptors and at the game, pro-democracy and pro-Hong Kong protesters went to the game and wore shirts which read, “Stand with Hong Kong.”
Irving did not express explicit support for the Hong Kong protesters, similar to James, and said, “Listen, I stand for four things: inner peace, freedom, equality, and world peace, man. So if that’s being conflicted inside of me, I’m definitely going to have something to say, and I left it in that room.” He added, “The reality is, as individuals, it’s our job to stand up for what we believe in. Now, I understand Hong Kong and China are dealing with their issues, respectively. But there’s enough oppression and stuff going on in America.”
In short, Irving hid behind the confidentiality of a closed-door meeting with the NBA instead of standing in solidarity with the Hong Kong protesters and yet was semi-supportive of the freedom of people to protest. But Irving did not receive as much public backlash as James did because of his wording and his expressed support for the freedom to protest (though not mentioning Hong Kong by name). Yet the constant theme in these comments and remarks by NBA athletes is to not offend the Chinese government due to the NBA’s investment in that country, which critics correctly call a sellout for many of the social-justice-minded athletes and the causes they support.
Photo by ye-wa