Through its Freedom4China campaign, the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) is running social media ads targeting LeBron James and the National Basketball Association (NBA). The online ads are directed to the bubble at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, where the NBA season is currently underway.
The ads state “Not All Heroes Are 6’9” with an image of Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James. Clicking through, the viewer is brought to a page highlighting the heroism of the Tiananmen Square “Tank Man.” It reads:
Tank Man’s name is not known, nor is his fate.
Tank Man was filmed in Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989, stepping in front of a column of 59 tanks. The day before, the Peoples’s Liberation Army crushed student-led, pro-democracy protests. The death toll is estimated from several hundred to several thousand.
The footage of the Tank Man is widely regarded as one of the most iconic photographic images of all time. Yet it is censored on the internet in China, and most young Chinese have never seen it.
Even though we do not know his name, we can take inspiration from his courage and willingness to sacrifice for a cause larger than himself. The Tank Man legacy will outlast that of any pampered millionaire athlete playing in a taxpayer-supported arena.
In October 2019, LeBron James criticized Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey as “misinformed” and “not educated” after Morey’s October 4th Tweet that stated, “Fight for Freedom. Stand for Hong Kong.”
Since that time, James has been silent about events in China, including the new National Security law that further tightens Beijing’s grip on Hong Kong.
NLPC spokesman Tom Anderson asserts, “LeBron James and the NBA can’t have it both ways. They can’t be outspoken about social justice in this country, and silent about human rights abuses in China. Nor can they pretend what happens in China is none of their business. The NBA is business partners with the Chinese Communist Party.”
Anderson continues, “Maybe it is time to reexamine what true heroism means. Is it risking your life to stand up for freedom, or is it drawing attention to oneself safely behind a podium, protected by a phalanx of security?”
On February 2, NLPC conducted a “Free Hong Kong” demonstration inside the Washington Wizards-Golden State Warriors game. On February 7, NLPC wrote to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver asking him to “endorse the demands of the Hong Kong protesters.”
On May 12, NLPC asked BlackRock CEO Larry Fink to divest his customers’ money from the 137 Chinese companies listed on American exchanges. On May 25, NLPC called upon the University of Pennsylvania and its Biden Global Center to disclose the source of millions of dollars of anonymous donations from China.
NLPC promotes ethics in public life and government accountability through research, investigation, education, and legal action.
For more information or to schedule an interview with an NLPC spokesperson, please contact Dan Rene at 202-329-8357 or [email protected]