During a closed-door meeting in China last week, LeBron James pressed NBA commissioner Adam Silver on whether or not he would punish Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey for his controversial support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
According to ESPN, James believed that a player would have been punished severely for instigating an international dispute between the league and the world's largest consumer market, as Morey did when he tweeted out his support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong last week.
Silver reportedly pushed back, reminding James that the NBA did not punish any players, such as himself, who publicly criticized President Donald Trump.
During a closed-door meeting in China last week, LeBron James pressed NBA commissioner Adam Silver on whether or not he would punish Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey for his controversial support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong
NBA commissioner Adam Silver reportedly pushed back, reminding James that the NBA did not punish any players, such as himself, who publicly criticized President Donald Trump
Since then, James's Los Angeles Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets played a pair of preseason exhibitions in China amid intense uproar over Morey's tweet. Several companies and state-run offices reportedly severed their ties with the NBA over Morey's tweet and the league's response to it.
Silver, who has not asked Morey to apologize for the since-deleted tweet, has steadfastly supported the rights of NBA and team employees to engage in free speech, but has also been criticized for perceived kowtowing to China in recent days.
Lakers and Nets players were shielded from reporters' questions for much of the NBA's preseason tour through China.
Upon arriving back home, James angered many on both sides of the Pacific by telling reporters Morey's support for Hong Kong protesters was 'misinformed.'
He attempted to walk back his comment on Twitter, writing that he did not 'believe there was any consideration [on Morey's part] for the consequences and the ramifications of the tweet.'
Senator Ted Cruz, a professed Rockets fan, criticized James's position in an interview with TMZ.
'I don't have a problem with [athletes speaking out on politics],' Cruz said. 'What I have a problem with is when they don't know what they're talking about and they end up defending tyrants.
'Now, that doesn't mean we should never do business with China,' Cruz continued. 'But we don't need to adopt their values. We don't need to embrace censorship and propaganda, and sadly that's what the Chinese government wants the NBA to do.'
Cruz added with some advice for James or any American citizen in a similar situation.
'If you want to engage on an issue, actually engage on the substance and know what you're talking about and defend basic principles - freedom is good, democracy is good, human rights are good. And, those principles are eternal and you shouldn't be willing to sell out freedom because you want to make a few bucks on sneaker sales.'
Senator Ted Cruz, a professed Rockets fan, criticized James's position, arguing that the Lakers star is defending the Chinese government's 'censorship and propaganda'
James, who has been vocal on other issues like racism and police violence, has vast financial interests in China, where many American shoe companies manufacture sneakers. James himself has a lifetime endorsement deal with Nike that is rumored to be worth around $1 billion, his now-former agent told GQ in 2016.
In fact, James has reportedly visited China for at least 15 consecutive summers.
Additionally, China is considered the fastest-growing market for Nike. In the most recent fiscal year, its revenue from China jumped 21 percent from the previous year, while overall, sales in China made up 16 percent of Nike's total revenue.
The NBA's operations in China are valued at $4 billion, according to Forbes.
On Tuesday, James acknowledged the criticism directed at him - and said he expected that it would be coming.sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more
'Obviously, it's a tough situation that we're all in right now, ... I think when an issue comes up, if