NBA superstar LeBron James criticized the general manager of Houston Rockets for not being "educated on the situation" when he tweeted in support of the Hong Kong anti-government protests.
But that criticism sparked backlash against James, with one U.S. lawmaker slamming the LA Lakers star for "putting profits over human rights."
Rockets GM Daryl Morey set off a spiral of events earlier this month after his tweet drew widespread anger in China. Even though the post was swiftly deleted, sponsors cut ties with the National Basketball Association while the league came under fire for appearing to give in to censorship from Beijing.
"We all talk about this freedom of speech, yes, we all do have freedom of speech. But at times, there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you're not thinking about others and you're only thinking about yourself," James told reporters ahead of a game against Golden State.
"I don't want to get into a word or sentence feud with ... with Daryl Morey. But I believe he wasn't educated on the situation at hand and he spoke."
After making those remarks, James took to Twitter to clarify his statements saying that Morey had no "consideration for the consequences and ramifications of the tweet" and he could have "waited a week to send it."
Last week, the Lakers played against the Brooklyn Nets in two exhibition games in China — but those games were not available for viewing in China as state-run television network CCTV suspended the current broadcast arrangements for the NBA's preseason games in China. Tencent, which owns the digital streaming rights for NBA in China, also "temporarily" suspended the preseason broadcast arrangements.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver eventually came out to support Morey but players have been largely quiet on the issue.
The comments by James drew sharp criticism from some U.S. lawmakers. Senator Rick Scott, R-Fla. accused James of "putting profits over human rights."
Meanwhile, Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said the NBA star was "parroting communist propaganda."