The planned giveaway comes after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said on Thursday that the league is feeling "substantial" financial losses because of China's reaction to Houston Rockets' General Manager Daryl Morey's tweets earlier this month.
At the Brooklyn Nets preseason game on Friday at the Barclays Center, hundreds of protestors filled the stands donning "Stand With Hong Kong" shirts. Hong Kong protesters subsequently burned James's jerseys in the street. China has portrayed the protesters as violent separatists and bristled at what it calls "foreign interference" in the matter.
Morey's post touched off a flurry of backlash on two continents, inviting criticism and sharp scrutiny of the NBA's business dealings and relationships in China.
"We were being asked to fire him by the Chinese government, by the parties we dealt with, government and business", Silver said during a panel discussion in NY on Thursday. Silver further inflamed tensions at the time by supporting Morey's right to free speech, telling reporters that the league wouldn't police what people can say. James said he and Morey both have the first amendment rights where they are free to speak their thoughts as U.S. citizens.
Beijing on Friday issued a flat denial.
"I don't know whose notes, or who is in there that you can't really depend on to keep a conversation like that in house", Irving said, (via ESPN). In China, banners promoting the games between the Nets and Lakers were stripped from the sides of buildings, community events were canceled and players were instructed not to speak with media. Maybe I used to be making an strive too exceptional to be a diplomat. The league has a growing presence in China and has hundreds of millions of fans there.
Despite James trying to be diplomatic about the whole situation, everyone knows that the 34-year-old National Basketball Association superstar is not happy with Morey's tweet.
Speaking in NY at an event organized by Time magazine, Silver emphasized what he described as his league's commitment to free speech, even at the potential cost of an ever-growing foothold in the lucrative Chinese market. "And I'm not even sure where we'll go from here".
"Values of equality, respect, and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA-and will continue to do so".
But Silver appears prepared to deal with the financial ramifications of standing by Morey and not acquiescing to China.
"But if people believe we shouldn't be engaged in commerce in China, or frankly in other places in the world where they don't approve of their practices or government, OK, but then, at some point, I look to the American government".
"We're in the middle of negotiating a trade agreement", Silver continued.
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