Fellow NBA player fires back at LeBron James over China comments: 'Freedom is not free'

Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter on Tuesday hit back at NBA star LeBron James for his critical comments about the Houston Rockets general manager whose tweet about Hong Kong protesters caused an uproar in China.

James waded into the controversy Monday when he was asked if he thought Daryl Morey should be disciplined for his tweet supporting pro-democracy Hong Kong protests.

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"I don't want to get into a feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn't educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke," James said. "So many people could have been harmed, not just financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually."

After the comment sparked a firestorm on social media, James clarified his remarks.

"I do not believe there was any consideration for the consequences and ramifications of the tweet," James tweeted. "I’m not discussing the substance. Others can talk about that."

Kanter, who is Turkish and a longtime critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğanresponded to James's initial comments with a series of tweets on Tuesday.

"Wow dude!" Kanter wrote before listing what he said were repercussions for speaking out publicly against Erdoğan.

"FREEDOM IS NOT FREE," Kanter added.

In an op-ed in the Boston Globe Tuesday, Kanter wrote: "I have a prominent platform and I want to use it to promote respect for human rights, democracy, and personal freedom. For me, this is bigger than basketball."
 
"I would languish in prison if I were in Turkey," he added. "Being apart from my family and friends has taken an enormous toll on me. But nothing good comes easy."
 
Morey prompted a Chinese boycott of the league earlier this month when he tweeted, then deleted, a picture declaring "Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” voicing support for demonstrations against Beijing’s attempts to expand control over the semi-autonomous region.

The tweet drew an immediate condemnation from the Chinese government, forcing several Chinese businesses and media outlets to blacklist, censor and cut ties with the Rockets or NBA all together. 

The NBA first responded with a widely criticized Monday statement expressing its regrets to offended Chinese fans, and then enraged lawmakers with a stronger statement in Mandarin condemning Morey.

A subsequent statement from the NBA's commissioner backing freedom of expression did little to quell the firestorm.