Michael Jordan once said, as was famously reported in Sam Smith’s 1995 book Second Coming: The Strange Odyssey of Michael Jordan, “Republicans buy shoes, too.”
Jordan was famously apolitical during his playing career, never truly tipping his hand on which side of the political spectrum he stood.
LeBron James has taken a much different approach over the course of his career in regards to societal and political issues, being counted on consistently as one of the leading voices among all athletes to weigh in and offer his opinion.
Before Monday evening, the closest similarity between Jordan and James was that they’re both among the best to ever play basketball. Now it looks like they share the sentiment behind Jordan’s famous quote.
If Republicans buy Air Jordans, then the same can be said about Nike LeBron sneakers and the people of China.
On Monday night, with his Los Angeles Lakers back home after a week in China while the Daryl Morey-tweet controversy was swirling around them, James claimed Morey was “misinformed or not really educated on the situation” regarding the “ramifications for the negative that can happen when you’re not thinking about others, when you only think about yourself.”
“I don’t want to get into a word or sentence feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke,” said James. “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.”
It’s rather ironic that James brings up freedom of speech in this context because as someone who was rightfully lauded for taking a stance against right-wing news anchor Laura Ingraham, throwing her words back in her face and telling her he will not “shut up and dribble,” mainly on the grounds of freedom of speech, James effectively told Morey the exact same thing Ingraham told him.
He may have dressed it up in a more polite manner, but the sentiment certainly rung the same.
So, why would James seemingly contradict what appeared to be his own value system in this instance? You likely already know the answer.
Much like how Jordan was worried about people in the United States of all political orientations not willing to buy his shoes, so too is James about China, the world’s second-largest consumer market, and his own Nike sales in the region.
And it’s evident simply by what James said.
“So many people could have been harmed, not only financially but physically, emotionally, spiritually.”
This isn’t a cipher. James’ intentions behind his criticism of Morey are crystal clear. He claims Morey was the man being selfish, but it’s James who publicly declared his self-interest and even used his own teammates to very thinly veil what he actually cared about when he doubled-down on his statement in a couple of tweets afterward.
That an NBA superstar is concerned about his financial interests in a consumer mega-market isn’t all that surprising, and is logical as well considering the financial fallout from Morey’s tiff could have a real impact on the NBA with loss of revenue and possibly a lowering salary cap.
What’s absolutely inexcusable by James, though, is the shot he took at Morey’s lack of education over what’s happening in Hong Kong and the “ramifications” of the tweet.
The fallout of what James and his teammates had to deal with last week in China are so minuscule, it’s insulting that he would even bring it up. Yes, hard questions are going to be asked when this matter comes up, but they’re just questions and if a player doesn’t want to or have a proper answer, it’s really easy to just say “no comment.”
Navigating the media is a part of everyday life as a professional athlete, even in times of higher-than-normal volume. It’s not a “ramification.”
True consequences are when people go missing and there are police shooting civilians as has been the case for the Hong Kong protesters and the Chinese government’s quest to suppress their fight for freedom.
But it seems as if James doesn’t see that, which is why his shot at Morey is so egregious. James talks about a lack of education on the matter but that’s very much the kettle calling the pot black. James isn’t an unintelligent man, but in this case he’s admitted he’s probably just as uninformed on the situation in Hong Kong as he claims Morey is.
More than nine years ago, James made known his “decision” on national television, causing jersey burnings and much criticism levied his way over what was ultimately just a free-agent call to go to a different team.
James’ decision Monday to criticize Morey once again has caused jersey burnings and criticism, only this is a far more serious situation than just what team will have the honour of paying him millions of dollars to play basketball.
Maybe he should’ve thought of the ramifications as well.