As the mounting fallout continues in the wake of Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey’s pro-Hong Kong Tweet, and Lebron James’ equally controversial comments on Morey’s tweet, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has revealed that Chinese officials asked him to fire Morey.
Silver spoke at the first TIME 100 Health Summit on Thursday about Beijing’s reaction to Morey tweeting the slogan, ”Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong” in support of pro-democracy protesters there, saying, “We were being asked to fire him by the Chinese government. … We said there’s no chance that’s happening. There’s no chance we’ll even discipline him.”
Chinese officials denied ever asking Silver to fire Morey. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the “Chinese government never posed this requirement.”
Morey deleted the tweet from his personal account, but not before all hell broke loose for the NBA and inciting a backlash in China. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Authorities in the communist country canceled publicity events and news conferences last week, while state TV refused to broadcast exhibition games between the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers.
As a result of the incident, LeBron James, considered one of the more outspoken athletes on social justice issues in a league that prides itself on being one of the most progressive in sports, has been facing sharp criticism of his own after his comments criticizing Morey’s tweet as “either misinformed or not really educated on the situation.” Some Hong Kong protesters even moved to burn James’ jerseys during a rally while chanting support for Morey.
Although the matter is dividing key players in the NBA, Memphis Grizzlies forward, Andre Iguodala, says he agrees with James’ sentiments. He told Complex, “What I got from Lebron’s interview was they had to go over there and play. And then their safety, think about that. Daryl Morey’s free to say what he said, but sometimes you have to think about the safety of the players. He could have waited a week.”
Iguodala, who clearly tried to steer away from making any comments about the situation directly, was trying to point out that James wasn’t being overly critical of Morey as he, himself, is an advocate for social justice. He thinks all James was trying to convey was that the timing was bad, and it put plenty of people in potentially serious jeopardy.