LeBron James may have been motivated by Chinese box office sales when he made the controversial decision to speak out against supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, a former Hollywood exec says.
The basketball legend sparked outrage on social media when he criticized Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey for tweeting a pro-Hong Kong meme.
On Monday James slammed Morey saying he was ‘either misinformed or not really educated on the situation’ in Hong Kong.
But experts said Wednesday that James may have deliberately sided with China in its conflict with Hong Kong protesters as a way of securing the success of his upcoming film Space Jam 2, the highly anticipated sequel to the 1996 classic.
Experts say LeBron James was motivated by China box office sales when he slammed Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey for supporting pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters on Monday
Not only is Lebron starring in the film, he’s co-producing with his company SpringHill Entertainment and it’s set to hit theaters in July 2021.
And assuring the live action/animated film can air in China is key to its success as it has the world’s second-biggest movie market and boasts a massive basketball fanbase.
But, China only allows only a limited amount of foreign films, around 34, to play each year. And the country’s government, notorious for its censorship, could easily pull the film from screens if James offended the country’s politics.
Former Universal Picture co-chairman Brian Mulligan told the New York Post that LeBron likely factored the potential profits for his upcoming film as China will be sure to bring in millions.
‘The movie is perfect for China, which has more people playing recreational basketball than any other country. And it would deny LeBron lots of money if it doesn’t play there,’ Mulligan said.
But experts said Wednesday that James may have deliberately sided with China in its conflict with Hong Kong protesters as a way of securing the success of his upcoming film Space Jam 2, the highly anticipated sequel to the 1996 classic that could make millions in the Chinese Box office
The original Space Jam, which starred Michael Jordan, grossed more than $230million in ticket sales and more than $140million was made overseas, according to Box Office Mojo.
‘James doesn’t just want to be the greatest baller of all time. He also wants to be a movie mogul,’ Former movie critic Sonny Bunch wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.
He adds that James was motivated by a fear of ’empty Chinese theaters’.
Earlier this year China capped Avengers: Endgame to play in the theater for just one month, limiting its profits to $615million, according to the China Film Insider Website.
Anti-Chinese government protests have rocked Hong Kong for several months now, first sparked in June against proposals to allow extradition to mainland China. Hong Kong residents fears that the rule would undermine the city’s judicial independence and endanger government protesters.
Hong Kong, while under the Chinese Government, has more autonomy than the mainline as well as individual rights.
‘I don’t want to get into a … feud with Daryl Morey,’ James told reporters on Monday, ‘but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand and he spoke.’ As a result protesters in Lakers jerseys took to the streets of Hong Kong to protest his comments
Demonstrators set a LeBron James jersey on fire during a rally at a playground in Hong Kong
About 200 or so protesters were at the playground as LeBron James’s replica Miami Heat jersey was burned. James previously played in Miami before returning to Cleveland and moving on to the Lakers
Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey sparked outrage when he tweeted his support for the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong last week. On October 4 he tweeted: ‘Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.’
‘I don’t want to get into a … feud with Daryl Morey,’ James told reporters on Monday, ‘but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand and he spoke.’
‘So many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually, so, just be careful what we tweet, what we say, what we do. Even though yes, we do have freedom of speech, there can be a lot of negative that comes from that,’ he added.
James’ comments sparked outrage in Hong Kong and led protesters to burn his jersey and slam him as a hypocrite and accuse him of pandering to China.