Former top ESPN journalist Bob Ley called out LeBron James and the NBA’s relationship with China during a recent interview as controversy swirls around Saudi Arabian-financed LIV Golf, which is poaching golfers away from the PGA Tour.
Fox News reported that Ley made the remarks during an interview on Michelle Beadle’s podcast “What Did I Miss?”
Critics say that Saudi Arabia is using sportswashing to boost its public image as it faces criticism over its human rights record.
“The LIV Golf thing has unleashed a fury of convenient and easy outrage, not that I disagree with it at all. … It’s real easy to be p—– off and angry about LIV Golf and Saudi. All I ask for is philosophical and ideological consistency. Apply it to China consistently, LeBron,” Ley said. “There’s been other reporting. I mean, the Fainaru brothers at ESPN.com have shown some of the things with camps and knowledge of what the NBA’s involved with. China has as many issues as any other country, and is the outrage tempered by the popularity of the sport and the dollars at stake?”
Ley called out James specifically, saying that the NBA megastar had the “opportunity” to expose what was going on in China. Ley made the remarks within the context of how a 2019 tweet from Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey sparked a massive problem for the NBA in China.
Fox News noted that James, whose team was in China at the time, waited until he returned to the U.S. before he made a statement about the incident. James attacked Morey publicly, claiming he “wasn’t educated on the situation” and that there were “a lot of negatives that comes with” having free speech.
“LeBron, I think, has a responsibility, and an opportunity more importantly. And it’s easy for people to come to the conclusion that players, at a time when social voice and equity are very much a part of sports, moreso than ever before, here’s an opportunity to make a stand,” Ley said. “If you are a billionaire, you can afford to perhaps make a stand and at least become educated. Freedom of speech in China is a very different thing. Freedom of access to the internet is a very different thing. Is there an opposition party in China? Oh no, not for the last 60 or 70 years. Are we comfortable dealing with a nation like that and putting it all on the table? Those are questions people need to answer.”
“If you want to get into a froth about LIV Golf — and you have every right to — take a pause, take a deep breath, and look at China,” he concluded. “Should this outrage and should this introspection extend to the NBA?”