Shaq defends free speech after NBA and LeBron James ‘double-dribbled on the issue’


Shaq just dunked on LeBron.

A week after Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James committed a flagrant foul on the First Amendment, Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal embraced free speech Tuesday, and backed the basketball executive whose support of Hong Kong protesters drove a wedge between China and the NBA.

“Daryl Morey was right,” O’Neal said in support of the Houston Rockets general manager whose tweet set off a firestorm in China and could have big financial consequences for the basketball league.

While executives and players tiptoed around the issue, O’Neil used the spotlight of the NBA’s opening night to defend Morey and American values.

“As American people, we do a lot of business in China,” the retired rim shaker said during TNT’s pre-game show. “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.”

“Daryl Morey was right,” O’Neil continued. “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’Neill was speaking outside Los Angeles’ Staples Center ahead of a game between the Lakers and the Rockets.

O’Neal did not mention James — his former Cleveland Cavaliers teammate — by name, other than to talk about the game. But the contrast in views was clear as the fiberglass backboard.

James was widely panned after he double-dribbled on the issue.

“Yes, we do have freedom of speech,” James said in China last week, where the Lakers were playing an exhibition game. “But at times, there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you’re not thinking about others, when you only think about yourself.”

Hong Kong protesters were so outraged that some burned James’ jersey.

On Oct. 4, Morey’s seven-word tweet — “Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong” — sparked a controversy that put the NBA on the defensive with China, a lucrative market with billions of dollars in the balance.

The tweet was quickly deleted.

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