A sign company has decided not to accept advertising that decried LeBron James’s refusal to speak out against China human rights abuses.
The National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) in Virginia wanted to post images showing James with a Chinese flag covering his mouth with the message, “Silence is Violence.” If approved, the billboards would have been displayed near the entrance to the NBA Bubble in Orlando, Florida, where James’s Lakers are facing off against the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.
The Outfront Media advertising company declined the ads, which would have brought in a reported “hundreds of thousands” of dollars. The ad company said it would only run the ads without James’s Image.
The NLPC said the ads sent an important message. Peter Flaherty, chairman of the NLPC, said, “When it comes to human rights in China, silence is indeed violence. We should be able to call LeBron on his hypocrisy without this censorship.”
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James has often spoken out about perceived police brutality and racial issues. But he has been criticized for his stance against the Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey when the executive expressed support for Hong Kong protesters. “I don’t want to get into a word or sentence feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation,” James said at the time.
The Los Angeles Lakers forward’s support was praised by Chinese officials. While the NBA took a financial hit when it eventually backed Morey after initially averring, James has a lifetime endorsement deal with Nike, who manufactures its goods in China.
The NLPC claimed James has not spoked out about the Chinese “slave labor” used to make his sneakers.
James has not commented on the billboard issue. A Nike spokesperson said the company “takes very seriously any reports about forced labor and we have been engaging with multi-stakeholder working groups to assess collective solutions that will help preserve the integrity of our global supply chains.”