When LeBron James gets off a plane in China on Tuesday, he better be ready.
Reporters surely will be waiting.
For the Brooklyn Nets.
For the Los Angeles Lakers.
But especially for LeBron. And if he wants to preserve his sterling and well-deserved reputation as an athlete willing to risk backlash while speaking out against social injustice, here’s what he must convey:
►He supports the right to free speech
►He believes in a free and open society
Anything less will leave LeBron looking like a sellout as he and members of the Lakers and Nets walk into controversy sparked by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who on Friday night tweeted support for Hong Kong independence.
Morey’s tweet was a nod to the Hong Kong protesters fighting a plan that would allow extraditions to mainland China, where democratic rights cease to exist for those accused of crimes.
Hong Kong, once a British colony, has been under the control of China since 1997.
When Morey’s tweet angered China’s government, the NBA all but genuflected, issuing a statement that in part read it was “regrettable’’ that Morey’s tweet “deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China.”
On Monday in Tokyo, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told Kyoto News, “I have read some of the media suggesting that we are not supporting Daryl Morey, but in fact we have.”
There should be no appearance of equivocation from LeBron, delicate as the situation might be. He is Nike’s best compensated and most globally recognized pitchman, and Nike does big business in China. How big?
In the most recent quarter, Nike’s Great China revenue increased by 22% to almost $1.7 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal. In early 2016, not long after James signed a lifetime endorsement deal with Nike reported to be worth $1 billion, he had made 12 trips to China for Nike, according to cleveland.com.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Josh Peter