As part of Ad Age’s continuing media-about-media coverage, a quick look at an NBA superstar’s current geopolitical PR crisis:
LeBron James has stepped in it—and the nation’s leading tabloid newspapers are in agreement about his punishment (part of it, anyway): He shall now be known as LeBurn James, per this morning’s front pages of the New York Post and Daily News (above). As the Post’s Yaron Steinbuch reports in a story headlined “Hong Kong protesters slam LeBron James for comments about China, free speech,”
Furious Hong Kong protesters burned and stomped on LeBron James basketball jerseys on Tuesday as the Lakers superstar faced mounting outrage over his comments on their pro-democracy demonstrations. Activists vented their fury by chanting profane slogans and holding up signs supporting Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, whom James on Monday called “misinformed or not really educated” for a since-deleted tweet of a meme that said “Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”
Leonard Greene of the News, in a story headlined “LeBron shoots air ball in China: Says free speech can have ‘negative’ consequences,” has more details about what James said:
“Yes, we do have freedom of speech,” James said in China, where his Los Angeles 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.” Then James double-dribbled, doubling down on his box out of the Bill of Rights.
“So many people could have been harmed, not only financially but physically, emotionally, spiritually. So just be careful what we tweet and what we say and what we do. Even though, yes, we do have freedom of speech, it can be a lot of negative that comes with it.”
Elsewhere among the national print media, the middle-of-the-road USA Today refrains from giving James a new nickname, but sports columnist Dan Wolken, in a post headlined “Opinion: LeBron James undermines values he’s espoused in most disgraceful moment of career,” arguably offers an even harsher condemnation, writing,
The thing is, LeBron, we’ve come to expect more of you. You’re obviously an intelligent person, a compassionate person and a socially conscious person. At this point in your life and career, it’s part of your brand. But to present that face to an American audience while essentially admitting that all you care about when it comes to the rest of the world is cashing those big checks—well, let’s just say it doesn’t look very good on you.
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