Shaquille O’Neal defended Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey on Tuesday night, saying that Morey “was right” for tweeting in support of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Morey has faced heavy backlash for his tweet, which led to criticism from NBA star LeBron James and Chinese censorship of the league in the midst of a Chinese exhibition series.
“As American people, we do a lot of business in China,” O’Neal said. “And they know and understand our values and we understand their values. And one of our best values in America is free speech. We’re allowed to say what we want to say and we’re allowed to speak up on injustices, and that’s just how it goes.”
Morey’s initial tweet of a graphic, which stated, “Fight For Freedom Stand With Hong Kong,” resulted in a PR nightmare for the NBA. Morey quickly deleted the tweet, which was followed by an initial statement from the NBA distancing the league from Morey. The move resulted in widespread criticism from U.S. politicians. When NBA commissioner Adam Silver later attempted to defend Morey’s right to free expression, major Chinese corporate sponsors dropped the league and announced boycotts of NBA broadcasts.
O’Neal’s comments came after James said last week that Morey was not “educated on the situation at hand,” and that “if you don’t feel like you should speak upon things, you shouldn’t have to.”
“Whenever you see something going on wrong anywhere in the world, you should have the right to say that’s not right, and that’s what he did,” O’Neal said. “. . . Here, we have the right to speak. And especially with social media, we’re going to say whatever we want to say, when we want to say it.”