COMMENTARY: LeBron James hinders social justice persona with recent China-Hong Kong comments


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Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James typically uses his platform to raise awareness to social issues. But recently, his comments about China and Hong Kong have caused much controversy.

LeBron James is a vocal advocate for social justice in the United States. James has used his status as an NBA All-Star to voice his support for the Black Lives Matter movement, share his displeasure for President Trump and advocate for the compensation of NCAA athletes by backing the Fair Pay to Play Act in California. 

All of this advocacy portrays James as a social justice warrior and an exemplary African-American man who is not afraid to speak out against injustice. However, James betrayed that image when he criticized Daryl Morey’s tweet as “misinformed.”

On Oct. 4, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” backing the pro-democracy movement in the city. 

Morey quickly deleted the tweet after it upset Chinese sponsors, China Central Television, China’s state broadcaster, and the Chinese Basketball Association led by former Rockets center Yao Ming. Morey’s tweet caused a major rift between China and the NBA. 

“I just think that when you’re misinformed or [Morey’s] not educated about something. We all see what that did–not only for our league but for all of us in America, for people in China as well. And so many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically,”  James told ESPN. 

James betrayed his social justice advocacy for money. James endorses Nike. James even has his own line of sneakers and apparel–much like Michael Jordan–all fabricated by Nike. This past year, Nike named its new state-of-the-art Sport Research Lab at their headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon after James. 

When James said, “for us in America” he really meant himself. When James said, “for us in America” he meant his partnership with Nike. When James said, “for us in America,” he meant the Nike-controlled industry that is commonly known as basketball. 

Nike is the official apparel company of the NBA. Nike is also the “social justice champion” as referred to by United States Vice President Mike Pence. Nike is the company that stood behind Colin Kaepernick when every NFL team refused to give him a contract. Nike has cooperated with an oppressive Chinese government in exchange for cheap Chinese labor. 

According to NBC, James’ jersey was the top-selling jersey for the 2018- 2019 season. His current team, the Los Angeles Lakers, was the franchise with the most team merchandise sold in the same season. Do you see a pattern? James could lose millions of dollars because of Morey’s tweet. 

As a fierce competitor, James does not want anything getting between him and his money. All it took was one tweet to jeopardize millions of dollars for James. You have to hand it to James: the cost of living in Los Angeles isn’t cheap.

James stood for something (his money). Even if it meant losing everything–the respect of fans and social justice advocates in the United States. So now comes the question: is James really a social justice advocate?