Shaq is the king of ads.
For people who've been following the saga of the NBA and Hong Kong, it may seem strange for Shaquille O'Neal, the emperor of commercials, to take a break from overseeing Shaqtoberfest to comment.
But did you know that Shaq is not only part owner of an NBA team—the Shaqramento Kings—he was actually once a giant basketball man? It's true! He even played for three of the same teams as noted GOAT LeBron James, and as it turns out, he has an opinion on the controversy that's unfolded between LeBron and the Houston Rockets' general manager, Daryl Morey.
In case you're unfamiliar, the story goes like this: Ongoing protests against mainland China's efforts to interfere in Hong Kong have prompted messages of support from many Americans, which China has been working to suppress. Earlier this month, Daryl Morey became one of those Americans with a now-deleted tweet that featured the slogan, "Fight For Freedom| Stand With Hong Kong," prompting a swift backlash from China and a noncommittal update from Morey. Reportedly, the NBA was urged to fire Morey, but declined.
Nonetheless, China is a huge market for professional basketball and, as former commissioner David Stern once said (in a pure distillation of capitalism), "I have a responsibility to my owners to make money." So a sloppy game of damage control ensued, culminating in LeBron James saying of Morey, "I believe he wasn't educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke, and so many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. So just be careful what we tweet and what we say, and what we do. Even though yes, we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that too."
Celtics fans have never felt so seen
Some have defended LeBron's comments by pointing out that he and the Lakers were actually travelling in China at the time, and no doubt they had to deal with some of the turmoil that resulted from Morey's tweet. But on the whole, the reaction has been seething internet-hatred.
More than a week later, that hatred seemed like it was finally losing steam when suddenly Shaq stepped in to shake things up. Shaq loves to shake things up. Quoth Papa John's replacement papa, "Daryl Morey was right… one of our best values here in America is free speech. 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 something they have to deal with."
And just like that, Kazaam's magic powers zapped life back into the story. How will LeBron respond? Does he know that the star of the Shaqfu videogame series has more championship rings than he does? And when will Shaq address his controversial friendship with infamous warlord The General? Only time will tell.
One of these men exists only to sell you car insurance, the other is on trial at the Hague
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