LeBron James spoke out stridently against Rockets GM Daryl Morey on Monday night, calling his tweet in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrations, potentially financially harmful.
However, James may not have been just been concerned about the NBA losing money, he may have been thinking about himself.
Fox Business examined LeBron’s financial dealings and interests with China, and found that the NBA superstar has both merchandising and entertainment ventures that could suffer serious consequences from a prolonged rift with the communist nation.
According to Fox Business:
[LeBron] holds a lifetime deal valued at $1 billion with sports retail giant Nike, which saw its sales in China surge 27 percent to nearly $1.7 billion in its most recent fiscal quarter alone. James’ signature sneaker line is one of Nike’s most prominent offerings.
James’ standing in China could also impact the future efforts of his media production company, SpringHill Entertainment. The firm is producing “Space Jam 2,” the highly anticipated sequel to NBA legend Michael Jordan’s original film, which will seek a massive return from Chinese audiences.
While it may seem incredible that an athlete would have such a strong financial interest in a country, the reality of the situation becomes more clear when viewing it through the prism of Nike itself. According to Fox Business, “Nike earned more than $6 billion in revenue from China during its 2019 fiscal year.”
Such a figure might not only explain James’ harsh criticism of Daryl Morey, it may also explain the deafening silence of fellow social justice warrior and supposed human rights advocate Colin Kaepernick. The former 49er and noted anthem protester has an extremely lucrative deal with Nike as the face of the company’s “Just Do It” campaign, and has maintained complete silence on the NBA-China rift.
Nike has business partnerships with hundreds of athletes around the world. The company’s monster sales in China have essentially resulted in a gag order on scores of high-profile athletes, many of whom are normally outspoken on political and human rights issues.
Nike itself is in a strange and contradictory position.
While branding itself as one of, if not the face of the social justice movement in American sports, Nike has closed several businesses in America and moved their operations overseas to China, and other places with throngs low paid workers. All the while knowing that those jobs won’t bring any added freedoms or free any political prisoners, they’ll only helping to buttress a ruthlessly oppressive regime.
So, not only is Nike making $6 billion a year in actual sales in China, they’re actually making far more when factoring in the money they’re saving by using slave labor in there.
When Nike inaugurated Colin Kaepernick’s ad campaign, the slogan read: “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”
After looking at the company’s financial dealings with China and their silence on the Chinese Communist Party’s human rights abuses, it’s easy to see what they really stand for.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn