Muhammad Ali’s ex-wife slammed LeBron James in wake of the Los Angeles Lakers superstar’s comment that Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was misinformed when he tweeted in support of pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters.
Khalilah Ali, who was married to the late boxing great from 1967 to 1976 and during the time he refused to fight in the Vietnam War, told TMZ Sports on Tuesday that she will support people “who are standing up for their rights.”
While Hong Kong protesters burned James’ jersey in the streets in response to the All-Star’s comments on Morey, Ali said that would have never happened to Muhammad Ali, adding that the boxer-turned-civil-rights activist was a “man of the world.”
“They would not take Muhammad Ali’s shorts and burn them anywhere, it would never happen,” she said.
Ali added: “I love LeBron James. I think he’s the greatest. But, when it comes to people and society and companies, we have to put that aside. Respect it, but you have to stay the course when it comes to human respect and human fight, human liberty.”
James first broke his silence on the issue Monday.
“I’m not here to judge how the league handled the situation,” he said. “I just think that, when you’re misinformed or you’re not educated about something – and I’m just talking about the tweet itself – you never know the ramifications that can happen. We all see what that did, not only did for our league but for all of us in America, for people in China as well. Sometimes you have to think through the things that you say that may cause harm not only for yourself but for the majority of people. I think that’s just a prime example of that.”
He received massive criticism and followed up with a tweet: “My team and this league just went through a difficult week. I think people need to understand what a tweet or statement can do to others. And I believe nobody stopped and considered what would happen. Could have waited a week to send it.”
James doubled down on Tuesday when talking to reporters and said he wasn’t going to speak on the matter again.
“I’d be cheating my teammates by continuing to harp on something that won’t benefit us trying to win a championship because that’s what we’re here for,” James said. “We’re not politicians. I think it’s a huge political thing but we are leaders and we can step up at times. But … you don’t feel like you should speak upon things you shouldn’t have to.”
He added that he should be focused more on social justice issues in the U.S. than geopolitical issues thousands of miles away.
“There’s things that happen in my own community, trying to help my kids graduate high school and go off to college, what’s been my main concern over the last couple years and my school,” he said. “Trying to make sure the inner city kids that grew up in my hometown can have a brighter future and look at me as inspiration to get out of the hellhole of the inner city. And we don’t talk about those stories enough.”