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16 Oct, 2019 10:12

‘It’s a tough situation’: LeBron James looks to calm tensions as fans burn his jersey in protest after free speech tweets (VIDEO)

‘It’s a tough situation’: LeBron James looks to calm tensions as fans burn his jersey in protest after free speech tweets (VIDEO)

Amid street protests in Hong Kong, NBA superstar LeBron James has moved to clarify his comments regarding Houston Rockets GM’s support for Hong Kong in their dispute with China, calling the situation a “tough” one.

"I mean obviously it's a tough situation that we're all in right now, as an association," said James.

"Us as athletes, owners, GMs, whatever, so forth. I think when the issue comes up, if you feel passionate about it or you feel like it's something that you want to talk about, then so be it."

The furor began after Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted his support for Hong Kong, saying: "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong."

Morey subsequently deleted the tweet, but the fallout from his public show of support for Hong Kong during a sensitive time between the NBA and China has been a significant one, with the country’s state television channel opting not to broadcast the game between the Brooklyn Nets and the LA Lakers, while a number of Chinese companies reportedly suspended their business activities with the NBA.

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Morey’s boss at Houston, owner Tilman Fertitta, publicly distancing himself from Morey’s sentiments, while star player James Harden telling a press conference in Tokyo: "We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there."

James weighed in via Twitter on Monday following the Lakers’ tour of China, saying he believed Morey was "either misinformed or not really educated on the situation" and wasn’t mindful of the potential consequences arising from his message before he posted it.

"So many people could have been harmed not only financially (but) physically, emotionally, spiritually," he said.

"So just be careful what we tweet and say and we do, even though, yes, we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that, too."

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After his comments met with a strong response online, he later added: "Let me clear up the confusion. I do not believe there was any consideration for the consequences and ramifications of (Morey's) tweet. I'm not discussing the substance. Others can talk about that."

James’ comments prompted an angry response from fans in Hong Kong, who viewed it as a veiled message of support for China, and fans were shown burning and stamping on basketball jerseys bearing his name.

But while those images have been widely circulated via social media, James said he hasn’t seen them, and isn’t following the response to his comments.

"I haven't been paying attention to it much besides what I said and what we're trying to do here," he said.

And, speaking to reporters on Tuesday,  James continued on his point about free speech, saying: "I also don't think that every issue should be everybody's problem, as well. There's multiple things that we haven't talked about that happen in our own country that we don't bring up. There's things that happen in my own community.

"There's issues all over the world, and I think the best thing we can do is, if you feel passionate about it, talk about it. If you don't have a lot of knowledge about it or you don't quite understand it, I don't think you should talk about it. I think it just puts you in a tough position."

And with that said, the Lakers star said he would draw a line under the topic in order to keep the focus on basketball for him and his teammates moving forward.

"I won't talk about it again, because I'll be cheating my teammates by continuing to harp on something that won't benefit us," James said.