For the first time, LeBron James spoke up Monday night on the NBA-China issue — and not everyone liked what he had to say.
The Los Angeles Laker was asked by the media yesterday about the NBA-China controversy, which began Oct. 4 when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey took to Twitter to voice his support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous territory of China.
While James declined to voice his own views on the Hong Kong protests, he discussed Morey’s tweet, saying it was “misinformed.” He further suggested Morey hadn’t considered the ramifications of his words.
“I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke,” James told the media. “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.”
James’ comments weren’t well-received by everyone, with American politicians among those voicing their dissent. Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, wrote on Twitter yesterday that James was “parroting communist propaganda.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, called the baller’s comments “garbage,” asking: “LeBron, are YOU educated on ‘the situation?’ “
Following the backlash, James took to his own Twitter account to clarify his comments, writing that his words were focused only on the “consequences and ramifications” of Morey’s tweet rather than on its substance.
“Let me 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,” he wrote.
“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,” he added.
At present, China accounts for 10% of the NBA’s revenue, a share that could increase to 20% by 2030, according to some projections. Analysts surmise that the conflict could lead to a sales dip for Nike, which is the leading athletic company in China with a 22.1% market share, according to a 2016 Euromonitor report. Nike is the exclusive on-court uniform provider to the NBA and a brand with which James has a lifetime deal.
“Based on what we know, I do not see much danger to Western brands’ sales,” Matt Powell, senior sports industry advisor at The NPD Group, told FN. “But if the situation gets worse, they could be pulled into the fight and see sales impacted.”
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