Shaquille O Neal backs NBA executive over China dispute
|bbc.com 22 Oct 2019 at 22:57|
The basketball legend said Houston Rockets manager Daryl Morey "was right" to tweet support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
The NBA is hugely popular in China and Mr Morey s comments unleashed a wave of anger in the country.
Sponsorship and telecast deals have been cut in the lucrative market.
Speaking on TNT Television s Inside the NBA show on Tuesday, O Neal defended the Houston Rockets manager s tweet that ignited the dispute.
"Daryl Morey was right," he said.
"Whenever you see something wrong going on anywhere in the world, you should have the right to say That s not right and that s what he did," O Neal said.
Mr Morey tweeted an image earlier this month captioned "Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong". He later apologised for the post .
It came in the midst of months of protests in Hong Kong sparked by proposed changes to an extradition bill.
Though the changes have been abandoned, the unrest has continued, expanding into demands for greater democracy.
Basketball is among the most popular sports in China with 300 million people playing the game, according to the NBA.
The league has around 800 million fans in the country supporting millions of dollars of business.
NBA hall of famer O Neal noted the significance of the Chinese market to the US and pointed to "free speech" in his defence of Mr Morey s comments.
"We as American people do a lot of business in China. And one of our best values here in America is free speech.
"We re allowed to say what we want to say and we re allowed to speak up about injustices, and that s just how it goes.
Image caption Yao Ming played for the Houston Rockets between 2002 and 2011 boosting the team s popularity in China