NBA officials and players have either seemed supportive of China or refused to comment over the controversy involving free speech, supporting Hong Kong protesters and the oppression by the Chinese Communist government.
Big names like Lebron James even attacked Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey for daring to be supportive of the protesters and kicking off the controversy in tweeting that support.
But there is one big name who isn’t kowtowing. Perhaps because he’s so big he doesn’t have to kowtow to anyone.
Legendary great Shaquille O’Neal spoke out and wasn’t afraid to be supportive of Morey.
“Daryl Morey was right. Whenever you see something wrong going on anywhere in the world, you should have the right to say, ‘That’s not right.’ And that’s what he did. But again, sometimes in business you have to tiptoe around things,” O’Neal, a former NBA center, said Tuesday night.
“They understand our values, we understand their values. And here, we have the right to speak, especially with social media. We’re going to say whatever we want to say whenever we want to say it,” said O’Neal, who was speaking on TNT’s pregame show before NBA opened its regular season with a game between the Toronto Raptors and New Orleans Pelicans.
While the NBA has bent over a lot, they didn’t do one thing that the Chinese asked and that was fire Daryl Morey. If Morey had been canned for expressing his opinion, the NBA must have known the anger of the fans could not be contained.
Commissioner Adam Silver admitted the NBA has taken a big financial hit because of the controversy, with some of the pregames and Tuesday’s opening games not being televised in China.
Last week, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver admitted that the league suffered “substantial” financial losses as the rift intensified. The NBA’s salary cap also could suffer if the losses continue, two league executives told CNBC.
“I don’t know where we go from here,” Silver said at an event hosted by Time magazine in New York. “The financial consequences have been and may continue to be fairly dramatic.”
Shaq said that the Chinese are just going to have to deal with it.
“We as American people, we do a lot of business in China, and they know and understand our values, and we understand their values. And one of our best values here in America is free speech,” O’Neal said. “We’ re allowed to say what we want to say, and we’re allowed to speak up about injustices, and that’s just how it goes. And if people don’t understand that, that’s just something they have to deal with it.”