NBA Hall of Famer and TNT commentator Shaquille O’Neal defended free speech during the opening night telecast of The NBA on TNT, and said that Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey was correct to back pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong.
“As American people, we do a lot of business in China,” O’Neal said. “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,” Shaq explained. “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.”
Shaq on Daryl Morey/China "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. pic.twitter.com/vefcHSPlMD
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) October 22, 2019
Though acknowledging that when it comes to business, “sometimes you have to tiptoe around things.” He asserted, however, “we have the right to speak.
“Especially with social media. We can say whatever we want to say, when we want to say it.”
The comments stand in stark contrast to those of O’Neal’s co-host and fellow NBA legend Charles Barkley, who adamantly defended LeBron James against the backlash he received for criticizing Morey and pointing out the “negative” side-effects of free speech.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said that the NBA suffered significant financial losses as a result of the NBA’s rift with the communist nation. However, he has also steadfastly maintained that Morey will not be disciplined or fired for his comments.