Former NBA star Shaquille O'Neal rushed to the defense of Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey on Tuesday amid the ongoing feud between the NBA and China, saying the GM was "right" to support Hong Kong.
Appearing on TNT pre-game analysis Tuesday evening, O'Neal weighed in on the controversy by explaining that both China and the United States "understand" each other's values.
"And, one of our best values here in America is free speech. We're allowed to say what we want to say and we are allowed to speak out on injustices and that's just how it goes," O'Neal told the panel. "If people don't understand that, that's something they have to deal with."
Shaq continued, "I just thought it was unfortunate for both parties, and then you have people speaking when they don’t know what they’re talking about. But Daryl Morey was right. Whenever you see something wrong going on anywhere in the world, you should have the right to say 'that's not right,' and that’s what he did."
O'Neal's comments got pushback from fellow NBA veteran Charles Barkley, who argued, "we all have a responsibility to our employer" as Morey's was to the Rockets.
"I can't come on TV and say anything I want to politically. I can't do that," Barkley told O'Neal. "His allegiance is to the Houston Rockets and the NBA, and he can quit if he's not happy with it."
Earlier this month, Morey sparked a firestorm after he expressed solidarity with Hong Kong protestors on Twitter.
Several prominent figures within the NBA have been reluctant to comment on the situation and criticize China, including outspoken anti-Trump critics such as Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and NBA superstar LeBron James.