'Daryl Morey was right': Shaquille O'Neal backs Rockets manager's support for Hong Kong protesters amid NBA-China row
The four-time NBA champion made the comments during TNT's pre-game show on opening night of the season.
Shaquille O'Neal extended his support to Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey after he sparked tensions between the NBA and China by echoing the sentiments of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong earlier this month.
"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," said the four-time NBA champion during TNT's pre-game show on opening night of the season, CBS News reports.
"It was unfortunate for both parties, and you've got people speaking out about something they don't know what they're talking about," Shaq 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.'"
On October 4, Morey tweeted his support for anti-government protesters.
"Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong," he wrote.
This resulted in several Chinese partners cutting off ties with the NBA. The country's largest broadcaster subsequently refused to air pre-season games and the Chinese government called for Morey to be fired from his position.
However, Commissioner Adam Silver stood strong behind Morey, saying the league supports free speech and that there was no way they would discipline him over a tweet.
That said, Morey is yet to address the controversy after several tweets asked him to clarify his position on the said protests.
Meanwhile, some of the league's biggest stars of all time, including LeBron James and James Harden, tried to assuage the hurt. While Harden apologized for the tweet, saying, "We apologize. We love China. We love playing there," James called Morey's comment "misinformed."
The New Orleans Pelicans are set to challenge reigning champions Toronto Raptors, as the season kicks off Tuesday. At the same time, the Los Angeles Lakers are set to face the Los Angeles Clippers in a highly anticipated bout.