Warriors' Kerr says he regrets not defending Morey, past comments on China

Sam Amico

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr regrets not backing a tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey that supported pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters, Kerr told Candace Buckner of The Washington Post.

Morey sent his tweet prior to the season, later deleting it, but bot before the league's tight relationship with China came into question.

Kerr and many others in the NBA have been outspoken on social justice issues in the United States, but have been accused of sidestepping questions about the ongoing human rights violations in China to protect financial interests.

While the league has not offered numbers, it is widely believed no professional sports league in history profits as much from a relationship with China as today's NBA.

When asked about Morey's tweet shortly after it was sent in October, Kerr said he wasn't educated enough to give an opinion. 

Still, Kerr says today he should have supported Morey's stance for human rights.

"I handled it really poorly," Kerr told Buckner. "I was frankly sort of tongue tied. I'm sitting there trying to figure out what I'm supposed to say to make sure I don't put the league in jeopardy, but also trying to find the right balance and I realize it was probably the one time over the years when I haven't just spoken my heart and I sort of got caught in this political hail storm. 

"It was very uncomfortable because it wasn't a topic I was very comfortable with and the circumstances were really strange."

A recent in-depth ESPN report revealed player abuse at NBA training academies in China, tying it in with the Chinese government's suppression of Hong Kong protests and oppression of Uighur Muslims.

Many across the league feel the NBA should at least tentatively end its business relationship with China, though no one has spoken up on the issue. Reporters inside the NBA bubble with direct access to players and coaches have yet to ask any questions related to the league's relationship with China.

But Kerr indicated it may be time for those in the NBA to have that discussion.

"I've learned of the last four years since I've been... [outspoken] the questions aren't always easy. If you follow your gut and your heart, you generally just speak your truth and you're going to feel good about it afterwards," Kerr said. "That's the one episode where I walked away shaking my head saying, 'What the hell was that?'"

When asked what he would've done differently, Kerr responded, "Well I would first of all back up Daryl. I would just say Daryl has a right, as an American, to free speech. He can say anything he wants and we should support him in that and that's the main message. And then if you want to get into the depths of a really complex issue then you can have a conversation."

The Warriors finished with the league's worst record this season after five straight trips to the Finals. They are tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves for best odds to win the draft lottery, scheduled for Aug. 20.

Per Eric Ting of SFGate:

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James drew outrage after stating that Morey "wasn't educated on the situation at hand" and those around the NBA should "be careful what we tweet and say and we do." As recently as a week ago, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban declined to weigh in on oppression of Uighur Muslims in China during a Twitter fight with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Cuban referred to human rights abuses as "domestic policies," tweeting, "I have never gotten involved in the domestic policies of ANY foreign country. We have too much to do here."