It’s often been said that freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences, and LeBron James has made it clear that the now frayed relationship between the NBA and China is a direct result of one thing: a lack of consideration.
In speaking to reporters on Monday for the first time since Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey pissed off the NBA’s second-biggest market and jeopardized billions of dollars in the process (more on that later), ESPN reports that James dropped the following jewels:
“I don’t want to get into a [verbal] feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke,” James said before the Los Angeles Lakers played the Golden State Warriors in a preseason game at Staples Center. “And so many people could have been harmed not only financially, physically, emotionally, spiritually. So just be careful what we tweet and say and we do, even though, yes, we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that, too.”
In this instance, “a lot of negative” includes voided deals, canceled events, enraged Chinese officials, and completely avoidable chaos that’s threatened to upend an extremely lucrative, decadeslong partnership between China and the NBA.
So what the hell happened?
On Oct. 4, Morey tweeted (and deleted) his support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests:
Slight problem: Hong Kong is a Chinese territory.
So considering Morey’s employment with the Rockets—and in turn, the NBA—shit got real quick. Chinese sports apparel company Li Ning Co. and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Credit Card Center pulled the plug on their relationship with the Rockets, Chinese broadcasters CCTV and Tencent Holdings Ltd. followed suit, and things have only grown exponentially worse since.
That wrath has since extended to the rest of the NBA, with NBA commissioner Adam Silver calling former Houston Rocket great Yao Ming—who just so happens to be the chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association now—“extremely hot” over the situation.
All of this over a “misinformed” tweet, according to James.
But in unnecessarily jeopardizing his own brand by volunteering his two cents, instead of uttering “it’s above me now” and going about his black-ass day, the usually business-savvy future Hall of Famer caught some backlash of his own once his comments went public.
Even fellow NBA star Ennes Kanter came for King James with a sub:
However, the three-time NBA champion took to Twitter himself to “clear up” any confusion over his perceived shot at Morey:
“Let me clear up the confusion. I do not believe there was any consideration for the consequences and ramifications of the tweet,” James tweeted. “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.”
Pretty much. Unless, of course, you’re Donald Trump.
The upcoming NBA season is set to kick off on Oct. 22, so hopefully, cooler heads will prevail and the NBA will be able to properly resolve its issues with China.