The NBA’s China controversy is more than a year in the rear-view mirror, and now Los Angeles Lakers veteran Jared Dudley is addressing a matter that left many critical of the league and some figures in particular.
In his new book, “Inside the NBA Bubble: A Championship Season under Quarantine,” Dudley weighed in on the tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, now with the Philadelphia 76ers, that endorsed a free Hong Kong and sparked a firestorm from China.
Dudley complained of the collateral damage that such a statement created for players on Lakers, who were in China at the time as a part of a promotional trip alongside the Brooklyn Nets. Dudley recounted players fearing they might not make it home as they were inundated with protesters and death threats.
Dudley also defended LeBron James, who received significant criticism for blasting Morey’s tweet.
Via Silver Screen & Roll:
Back in the United States, Houston GM Daryl Morey tweets out sentiments that the Chinese government takes as an attack. And we’re the most high-profile American citizens in China at the time. Now he’s made things very hot for us. We were supposed to appear at a Special Olympics benefit event in Shanghai. You can see this giant twelve-story billboard from our hotel, which is advertising our appearance, and we watch in awe as they take it down.
There are people surrounding the hotel where we’re staying. We’re getting death threats from pro-government people. We can’t leave. We didn’t practice. We didn’t take any tours. We just came over here because it’s our job to play the game, because the league wants to make money in the huge market. Now we’re not entirely sure if and when we’re going to see our families again.
Adam Silver comes to China, literally sweating, to help cool things off for us. He has to negotiate his way in just to be able to see us and ensure our safe passage out of there. We just wanted to play our games and get the hell out. So when LeBron criticizes Daryl Morey for that tweet, everyone acts like he’s standing against free speech, but what he’s really saying is: You tweet something like that from the comfort of your own home, while actual players in your league are stranded in China, that’s not cool. You need to think for a minute about what the impact of that is on other people. Everyone’s hating on Bron, talking about how disappointed they are in him, but we see where he’s coming from.
The NBA, like many other large companies, has been criticized for doing business in China despite reported human rights violations — up to a million Uighurs remain in concentration camps in the country’s Xinjiang province, where an NBA basketball academy was also once located. Morey’s tweet came after reported instances of police brutality in Hong Kong.
Here is what James said about Morey after returning to the U.S., which Dudley complained was taken as an anti-free speech statement:
“I’m not here to judge how the league handled the situation,” James said. “I just think that when you’re misinformed or you’re not educated about something — I’m just talking about the tweet itself — you never know the ramifications that can happen. We all see what that did — not only did for our league but for all of us in America and people in China as well. Sometimes you have to think through the things that you say and may cause harm not only for yourself but for the majority of people. And I think that’s just a prime example.”
Apparently, when James said Morey’s tweet caused “harm” for “the majority of people,” he really meant the Lakers and Nets players, according to Dudley’s book.
Fortunately for the Lakers, their harrowing experience also proved to be a powerful bonding moment for the team:
Point is, if you want to give a team a bonding experience, an experience that forces them together, forces them to look out for each other, forces them to have each other’s backs no matter what, then I can’t think of anything better than what we experienced in China. Because really, that trip was the prologue for a dark, challenging year.
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