In which America’s most celebrated athlete, last heard whining about how inconvenienced he was by last week’s Hong Kong kerfuffle, reflects on the moral duty he feels to denounce injustices committed against those whose voices can’t be heard. Daryl Morey couldn’t agree more, I’m sure.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 30, 2018
I had forgotten but it turns out that the 2018 version of LeBron James was quite the woke gentleman:
-Injustice Anywhere Is A Threat To Justice Everywhere- Our Lives Begin To End The Day We Become Silent About Things That Matter- #ThankYouMLK50
— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 15, 2018
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Whereas LeBron 2019 sounds like a ChiCom apparatchik mumbling about how critics like Morey need to be better “educated” about what’s happening in Hong Kong.
I’m honestly speechless. Hong Kongers, however, are not:
The online platform LIHKG, the forum favored by Hong Kong’s protestors, was awash with criticism and handwringing Tuesday. “Has he been brainwashed by the Chinese Communist Party’s fake news or has he been bought?” wrote one user.
“I really cannot believe that someone from the U.S. would not cherish the precious freedom of speech they have,” added another.
Said one user on LIHKG: “Martin Luther King Jr. fought for civil rights, but LeBron James supports totalitarianism?”…
“Imagine the ‘difficult weeks’ protestors in Hong Kong have gone through,” fired back one LIHKG user, referencing the Hong Kong police force’s brutal suppression of the city’s originally peaceful protest movement.
He’s been bought. His domestic activism carries no risk of financial repercussions whereas activism that would irritate the Chinese government does. You’re left to wonder what James would say if the NFL’s accountant proved to him that social-justice protests during the national anthem really were hurting the league’s bottom line (which is quite plausible). If the imperative to speak out about “things that matter” ends the moment it costs you a buck to do so then LeBron should agree that those protests needed to be suppressed, irrespective of the justness of their cause.
Don’t look to mega-millionaire American sports stars for moral clarity on human rights and freedom of speech for oppressed people abroad. Look to a guy with actual skin in the game, who reacted to LeBron’s Chinese apologias in real time last night:
— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) October 15, 2019
-Haven’t seen or talked to my family 5 years
-Jailed my dad
-My siblings can’t find jobs
-Revoked my passport
-International arrest warrant
-My family can’t leave the country
-Got Death Threats everyday
-Got attacked, harassed
-Tried to kidnap me in Indonesia
FREEDOM IS NOT FREE
— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) October 15, 2019
Kanter is Turkish but a fierce critic of Erdogan, a dangerous thing for a prominent Turk to be. Last week, while woke heroes like Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich were whimpering through interviews about the NBA’s China mess, Kanter used the Boston Globe’s op-ed to extend another middle finger to Erdogan: “I will not be silenced over Turkey.”
“Constant pressure by Turkish consulates across the United States, as well as pervasive and continual harassment by the government in Turkey, has so far failed to stifle my dissent. As they increase the pressure, I raise my voice. I won’t be deterred. They’re wasting their time.
“How can I stay silent? There are tens of thousands of people — including teachers, doctors, members of the judiciary and military, lawyers, bureaucrats, journalists, and activists — in prisons for years just because they’re not die-hard followers of Erdogan. Hundreds of babies are growing up in small prison cells with their mothers. Democracy today is on life support, if not dead, and anyone who speaks up faces prison time.”
Imagine the endorsement deals Kanter would have in Turkey right now as a famous NBA player if only he were willing to play ball with the ruling regime. He’s one of the most famous Turkish athletes in the world. But he’s willing to leave some money — a lot of money — on the table because, in the end, what’s right is right. He’s using his platform to speak for those whose voices can’t be heard.
He’s LeBron 2018 except he actually means it.
By the way, John Cooper of the Heritage Foundation noticed this morning that ESPN is *still* referring to Hong Kong demonstrators as “anti-government protesters.” They’ve been doing that since this story began but it’s not less obnoxious a week later considering that “anti-government” is the least charitable way to describe what Hong Kongers want. “Human rights protesters” or “pro-democracy demonstrators” would work just as well but that would risk offending the Chinese by acknowledging implicitly that human rights and democracy are wanting in China. Instead they chose a term that’s completely morally neutral: “Anti-government.” Enes Kanter is an “anti-government protester” too, you know.
Also, @espn is still shamefully and falsely referring to the protesters in #HongKong as "anti-government protesters." Moments before, in intro-ing the segment, anchor @elleduncanESPN used the term, with a similar chyron underneath: pic.twitter.com/Zg6xt7MCah
— John Cooper (@thejcoop) October 15, 2019