LeBron James drops out of Hong Kong debate to keep from 'cheating my teammates'

LeBron James says the Los Angeles Lakers ' championship quest and social justice concerns at home are higher priorities than debating his comments on protests in Hong Kong.

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“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 told reporters on Tuesday night. He said he doesn't plan to comment further on his criticism of Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet defending Hong Kong activists.

"We are leaders, and we can step up at a times, but you don't feel like you should upon things you shouldn't have to," added James, who is in his second season with the Los Angeles Lakers,

“There's things that happen in my own community, trying to help my kids graduate high school and go off to college,” 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.”

James has encountered significant backlash for saying the Rockets general manager was uninformed when he tweeted in support of pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters earlier this month.

“When the issue comes up, if you feel passionate about it or you feel like it's something that you want to talk about then so be it," James said. "I also don't think every issue should be everybody's problem.”

The tweet occurred right before the Lakers’ preseason tour in China, and Hong Kong protestors burned his jersey and shirts in the streets afterward.

"People are angry,” said James Lo, a web designer who runs a basketball fan page on Facebook and expects more backlash from protesters worried that the international business hub is losing some of its independence from the Chinese government.

Demonstrators set a Lebron James jersey on fire during a rally at the Southorn Playground in Hong Kong on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

“Students, they come out like every weekend,” Lo said. “They've got tear-gassed and then they got gun-shot, like every weekend. Police beating students and then innocent people, like every day."

Against tha backdrop, when a basketball star like James "just comes up with something" such as his Twitter post, "we just can't accept that,” Lo said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.