Kyrie Irving finally got some preseason run on Friday night. A fracture in his face had limited his time on the court, including playing just one minute in China against the Lakers, but back home in Brooklyn he put on a mask and dropped 19 points in almost 25 minutes of action.
However, the issues from China followed the Nets back to Brooklyn.
Hundreds of supporters of the Hong Kong protesters attended the Nets game, wearing “Stand with Hong Kong” T-shirts and masks.
A host of fans in Barclays Center for the #Nets preseason finale wearing shirts saying Stand With Hong Kong. It’s been peaceful and nobody has been ejected. Interesting to see how this plays out. Clearly this issue is following the #NBA back from China and coming stateside. pic.twitter.com/KRrSOTJGQg
— Brian Lewis (@NYPost_Lewis) October 19, 2019
After the game, Irving was asked about the protesters and the now scarred NBA/China relationship. He mentioned the meeting with Adam Silver and said he understood the protestors but his focus was more domestic, via Nets Daily.
“Listen, I stand for four things: inner peace, freedom, equality and world peace, man. So if that’s being conflicted inside of me, I’m definitely going to have something to say, and I left it in that room,” Irving said of his conversation with Silver [adding the teams agreed after that meeting to play the games]…
“When you think about communities across the world, a lot of people would stand for world peace,” Irving said. “Government gets involved, it impacts different communities in different ways. And the reality is as individuals it’s our job to stand up for what we believe in. Now, I understand Hong Kong and China are dealing with their issues, respectively. But there’s enough oppression and stuff going on in America for me not to be involved in the community issues here as well.
“That’s one of those four pillars that goes in terms of the black community, colored people here in America. We’re fighting for everyday freedoms. So when I think about Hong Kong and China, the people are in an uproar; and for us as Americans to comment on it, African Americans or American Indians to comment on that, you’re connected nonetheless, especially when it impacts freedoms or world peace.
“So for me as an individual I stand up for those four pillars; and when they’re being conflicted I can understand why protestors come to the games.”
That is much better handled than LeBron James‘ somewhat rambling statement that mentioned financial repercussions. Irving supported the rights of the protesters at the game, but he avoided touching the third-rail issue in China (or, at least with Chinese officials) of the protests in Hong Kong themselves. Remember, Irving does have shoes to sell.
— NBA KICKS (@NBAKicks) October 19, 2019
We’ll see if there’s any fallout on the issue, but Irving is not as big a brand and target as LeBron.
Some of those lined up to bash the NBA on this issue will use what Irving said to continue doing so (and many would have no matter what Irving said). There are people who didn’t like what LeBron and Irving and Kevin Durant and others had to say when they spoke out on issues such as Black Lives Matter and now they see an opening to make lazy political points. It’s the way of the world.
However, as much as the league wishes it would the NBA/China issue is not going away. It may go dormant for a while — the NBA certainly wants it to as they try to promote the start of the season this week — but it will flare up again, one way or another. Hopefully, the league’s response next time comes with a better understanding of its priorities and what it stands for.