More than two years after the fact, ESPN concluded in an investigation into Brooklyn Nets owner Joseph Tsai's and NBA star LeBron James' reported retaliation against then-Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey for angering China with a pro-Hong Kong tweet.
In 2019, Morey tweeted in support of Hong Kong’s quest for freedom, posting: “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” China went ballistic and refused to broadcast NBA games that season, while the NBA declined to back Morey and refused to demand China stop its oppression.
Late last week, the ESPN investigation revealed that Tsai, a longtime friend of China's, demanded that Morey be forced out of his role in Houston by the NBA.
The NBA is extremely soft on the Chinese government's human rights abuses for fear of alienating its largest market. James, who isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer himself, hypocritically called Morey “uneducated.”
ESPN’s investigation discovered that James was enraged by Morey’s tweet for fear that China would block his Space Jam movie, which ultimately bombed domestically, and cause him to lose money at the box offices there. Additionally, James attacked Morey during a meeting with players at a hotel in China.
Breitbart sports blogger Warner Todd Huston wrote, “This is the same Lebron James who stomps around the U.S.A. claiming to represent the downtrodden and disenfranchised. But, apparently, his support of freedom doesn’t extend to China if it interferes with his profits in the Chinese market.”
Thanks to influential friends, Morey kept his job in Houston in 2019. He has since moved on to become president of basketball operations for the Philadelphia 76ers. ESPN now reports that, after the 2019 Morey tweet, the Nets “quietly refunded” his purchase of a suite for a Rockets game at their Barclays Center. Morey said he has information tying that decision to Tsai, though this has been disputed.
The NBA considers Tsai “invaluable” to its expansion in China. Tsai has also helped China build the infrastructure used to surveil and oppress its citizens, and had the audacity to do a CNBC interview last year on social injustice on America while turning a blind eye to the horrific injustice in the communist nation.
ESPN reported Tsai “personifies the compromises embedded in the NBA-China relationship” that keeps billions of dollars flowing from China to the NBA - as long the league overlooks China’s dictatorship and substantial human rights abuses, that is.
(Cover Photo: Erik Drost)