LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James tonight accused Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey of not being “educated on the situation” before tweeting in support of Hong Kong protesters.
“We all do have freedom of speech but at times there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you're not thinking about others and you only think about yourself,” James told reporters at Staples Center before tonight's preseason game against the Golden State Warriors in his first public comments since the Lakers played two exhibition games in China last week. “I don't want to get into ... a feud with Darryl Morey but I believe he wasn't educated on the situation at hand and he spoke.
“So many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually so just be careful what we tweet, what we and say, what we do even though yes we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that too."
James' comments drew swift criticism, including from Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, and Rick Scott, R-Florida.
“Having just been in Hong Kong - on the streets & with the protestors - this kind of garbage is hard to take,” Hawley tweeted. “LeBron, are YOU educated on `the situation'? Why don't you go to Hong Kong? Why don't you meet the people there risking their lives for their most basic liberties
“This statement is unbelievable. `So many people could have been harmed'? By Daryl Morey daring to express sympathy for democracy? News flash: people ARE being harmed - shot, beaten, gassed - right now in Hong Kong. By China. By the Communist Party the NBA is so eager to appease.”
Scott tweeted: “Clearly KingJames is the one who isn't educated on the situation at hand. It's sad to see him join the chorus kowtowing to Communist China & putting profits over human rights for #HongKong. I was there 2 weeks ago. They're fighting for freedom & the autonomy they were promised.”
Two tweets from James' account later Monday night sought to clarify his comments.
“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,” the first tweet read.
The second tweet read: “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.”
The tweets came while James was in his warm-up clothes on the Lakers bench. NBA rules forbid players from tweeting from 45 minutes before the scheduled tip-off through when their media availability ends after games, a period that coincided with James' tweets.
There was no immediate response to an email sent late Monday night to Tracey Hughes, the Houston Rockets vice president of media and player relations, seeking a response from Morey to James' comment.
Morey tweeted an image on Oct. 4 that read, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong." The tweet was later deleted and Morey later tweeted that he “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.
“I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention. My tweets are my own and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA.”
There have been a series of protests in Hong Kong since March 31.
Morey's tweet prompted Chinese companies to pull their sponsorships and the cancellation of local broadcasts of both games between the Lakers and Brooklyn Nets.