LeBron James fell under such intense scrutiny for his initial comments about Daryl Morey and the NBA’s ongoing controversy with China that he took to Twitter to attempt to clarify his position. The tweets didn’t necessarily help, either, so he tried again after the Lakers’ practice on Tuesday, saying that he felt his comments were taken out of context.
“And that’s why I wanted to clarify what my thoughts was and what my words was,” James said. “That tends to happen with me. I understand that, and I know that every word that I say is going to be broken down on however you feel... that I said it. You know, so, it comes with the territory and that’s okay with me.”
James makes an altogether fair point in that there are plenty looking for the opportunity to pounce on anything he says that shows any inconsistency for the sport of it. Unfortunately for everyone, that’s just how societal conversations go at this point, and the sooner that changes, the better for everyone.
That said, James was fully responsible for the context under which he made his own statement. Twice.
James was asked straightforward questions Monday night about the situation, gave his answer, and then fired off a couple tweets once he saw things weren’t going well. No one forced him to send the extra couple tweets, nor did any reporters present ask any questions in bad faith, or take what he said out of context. He can try to blame any number of factors he wants, but the more excuse-making and “clarifications” he offers up, the deeper the hole gets that he’s digging himself into.
James was also asked about the criticism he’s fallen under since he accused Morey of being “misinformed” on the ramifications of showing support for Hong Kong.
“It’s a tough situation that we’re all in right now... as an association,” he said. “I think when an issue comes up, if you feel passionate about it, or you feel it’s something you want to talk about, then so be it. I also don’t think that... every issue should be everybody’s problem, as well... When things come up, there’s multiple things that we haven’t talked about that happen in our own country, that we don’t bring up.”
James would go on to talk about his efforts to improve education in inner cities and in his hometown, and some of the other issues that face his community that don’t get talked about as much as he’d like. He then went back to the strategy of asking that if someone does speak out on a societal issue, they have some baseline of understanding on the subject.
“There’s issues all over the world and I think the best thing we can do is, if you feel passionate about it, talk about it. But if you don’t have a lot of knowledge about it, or you don’t quite understand it, I don’t think you should talk about it, because it just puts you in a tough position,” he said.
When asked if he would do more the make himself more knowledgable on Chinese politics, James said his focus is on the Lakers.
“I’m talking about it now, and I won’t talk about it again, because I’d be cheating my teammates by continuing to harp on something that won’t benefit us trying to win a championship because that’s what we’re here for,” James said.
He then went on to make arguably his most coherent and valid point, this time regarding the recent movement of demanding that athletes do make statements, no matter their level of knowledge.
“We’re not politicians. I think this is a huge political thing. But we are leaders, and we can step up at time, but there are times where — I’m not saying in this particular instance — if you don’t feel like you should speak upon things, you shouldn’t have to,” James explained.
The most constant criticism of James in all this has been that he is a hypocrite for speaking out against domestic societal issues and not doing so here in part because it would put at risk his own personal wealth. Such talking points, when used by critics of his political stances, come off as a muzzle than an actual demand for consistency.
Injustice anywhere is indeed a threat to justice everywhere, but it’s altogether unfair to hold athletes to a higher standard than anyone who does business with authoritarian states or benefits from that business however indirectly simply because they have to speak to reporters more frequently, and used some of that time to speak out on other issues they consider important.
As to the subject of how his comments were taken in Hong Kong, where some protestors have gone so far as to burn his jersey, James said he hasn’t been made aware of such things, and as a result couldn’t speak to the specific response that has come from that region. From the sound of things, he won’t be doing so going forward, either.