The King no longer reigns supreme in Hong Kong.
Lakers superstar LeBron James took a hit in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, where basketball fans trampled on jerseys bearing his name after the four-time MVP waded into the NBA controversy involving the country.
James touched a nerve among protesters in the former British colony for suggesting that free speech can have negative consequences.
They have been protesting for months in support of the same freedom that James argued can carry “a lot of negative.”
The demonstrators chanted support for Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey, something of a hero among protesters in Hong Kong for having tweeted in support of their struggle — infuriating authorities in China.
“People are angry,” said James Lo, a web designer who runs a Hong Kong basketball fan page on Facebook.
He said he’s already received a video from a protester that showed him burning a No. 23 jersey bearing the hoops great’s name.
“Students, they come out like every weekend. They’ve got tear-gassed and then they got gunshot, like every weekend,” he added. “Police beating students and then innocent people, like every day. And then he (James) just comes up with something (like) that. We just can’t accept that.”
Demonstrators set a LeBron James jersey on fire during a rally at the Southorn Playground in Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)Source:AP
Demonstrators watch as a LeBron James jersey burns. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)Source:AP
James made his comments in response to a question about whether Morey should be punished for his controversial tweet.
“Yes, we do have freedom of speech,” James said. “But at times, there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you’re not thinking about others, when you only think about yourself.”
He added: “So many people could have been harmed, not only financially but physically, emotionally, spiritually. So just be careful what we tweet and what we say and what we do. Even though yes, we do have freedom of speech, it can be a lot of negative that comes with it.”
One of the most powerful responses to James’ comments didn’t reference him directly. Boston Celtics big man Enes Kanter, who has been persecuted by the government in his native Turkey, posted a viral tweet explaining why “FREEDOM IS NOT FREE”.
-Haven’t seen or talked to my family 5 years
-Jailed my dad
-My siblings can’t find jobs
-Revoked my passport
-International arrest warrant
-My family can’t leave the country
-Got Death Threats everyday
-Got attacked, harassed
-Tried to kidnap me in Indonesia
FREEDOM IS NOT FREE
Protesters in Hong Kong said James’ comments smacked of a double standard, because he’s used his clout as a sports superstar to press for social causes in the US.
“Please remember, all NBA players, what you said before: ‘Black lives matter.’ Hong Kong lives also matter!” one of the protesters, William Mok, 36, told a crowd of hundreds.
-Injustice Anywhere Is A Threat To Justice Everywhere- Our Lives Begin To End The Day We Become Silent About Things That Matter- #ThankYouMLK50
Others said James’ comments made it seem like he’s more worried about money than people.
“James was trying, you know, to take a side, on the China side, which is like ridiculous,” said Aaron Lee, 36, a marketing director. “He was being honest, financially. Financial is money. Simple as that. LeBron James stands for money. Period.”
In a display of contempt for the player on Tuesday, many hurled basketballs at a photo of his face sitting atop a hoop.
A demonstrator holds a sign showing LeBron James embracing a Chinese 100-yuan banknote. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)Source:AP
Protesters in Hong Kong have threw basketballs at a photo of LeBron James and chanted their anger. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)Source:AP
In a pair of damage-control tweets posted late Monday, James asserted that he was not commenting about the political substance of Morey’s tweet.
“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.”
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