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Shaquille O’Neal on Tuesday came to the defense of Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey, who set off a firestorm between the NBA and China earlier this month when he tweeted his support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
“One of our best values here in America is free speech — we’re allowed to say what we want to say and we are allowed to speak out on injustices and that’s just how it goes and if people don’t understand that that’s something they have to deal with,” Shaq said on TNT’s pregame show on opening night of the NBA season.
“It was unfortunate for both parties, and you’ve got people speaking out about something they don’t know what they’re talking about,” the four-time NBA champion continued. “Daryl Morey was right — whenever you see something going on anywhere in the world, you should have the right to say, ‘That’s not right.'”
Morey tweeted in support of the anti-government protesters on October 4, saying, “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong.” As a result, several Chinese partners cut ties with the NBA, its largest broadcaster refused to air preseason games taking place in the country and the government called for Morey to be fired.
But Commissioner Adam Silver said the league supports free speech and there was “no chance” that the league would discipline Morey over his tweet. Meanwhile, Morey has not addressed the controversy since several tweets attempting to clarify his position on the protests.
Several of the league’s biggest stars, including LeBron James and James Harden, attempted to soften the blow. James called Morey’s comment “misinformed,” while Harden apologized for the tweet, saying, “We apologize. We love China. We love playing there.”