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Congressman Jason Smith

Congressman Jason Smith

A Foul on American Values

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Letter from Birmingham Jail on April 16, 1963

“A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice.” – Sermon in Selma, Alabama on March 8, 1965

These are the words of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and these two quotes were also shared by LeBron James on Twitter to celebrate MLK Day in January of last year. While these words appear crystal clear in their meaning, earlier this week LeBron made an exception to the late Dr. King’s advice.

For months on the streets of Hong Kong people have been beaten within inches of their lives, arrested and thrown into jail cells, and some have even been shot, all for just simply speaking their minds. China, who hates any free expression that contradicts their communist control of society, has also positioned over 12,000 soldiers inside the city limits to scare the people of Hong Kong into ending their protests. Still, the citizens of Hong Kong remain committed to fighting for their fundamental rights and freedoms. They look to the United States as the beacon of liberty; they run in the streets singing our national anthem and waving the American flag to keep their hopes alive.

In the United States of America, we defend the freedom of speech. That is why people like LeBron James are able to be vocally critical of everything from the White House to pop culture. In fact, just in the last few years, LeBron has celebrated those like Colin Kaepernick for refusing to stand for the national anthem and referred to the President of the United States as “u bum.” He went even further to describe the Americans who supported President Trump, as people who “make choices and say things that are uneducated.” 

Yet rather than criticize a communist country for failing to recognize basic human rights, earlier this week LeBron directed his criticism towards those vocalizing their support for the people of Hong Kong. He, and the rest of the NBA, disgustingly defend communism and its total control over people’s lives at the expense of our most fundamental freedoms because they are so fearful of losing out on the expanding Chinese market driven by its nearly 1.5 billion consumers.

I am sick and tired of America getting kicked around and put down by those who benefit from our capitalist society and open, free speech. Our American values are our nation’s greatest export and LeBron’s response makes it clear that he feels those values are up for sale when trying to curry favor with communist dictatorships to expand his personal profit margins.

The freedoms and liberties that we enjoy as Americans were paid for with the blood of American heroes, and generations of brave servicemen and women have made the ultimate sacrifice in the centuries since to ensure we remain what President Lincoln called, “the last best hope of earth.” That is why LeBron’s story is only possible in America and not in China, where you are told what to do and what to think. His incredible rise from the poor streets of Akron, Ohio to the wealthy Los Angeles suburbs is only possible because of American freedom and opportunity. It is heartbreaking that he is so quick to sellout those same values in order to make more money from a foreign and corrupt government. 

Despite him, and others, heaping praise on Chinese dictators and their oppression of human rights, America still remains the only nation where you are able to achieve success through hard work and determination. If you were to open the gates on China’s border, more people would flow out than in. Yet here in the United States, there are hundreds of thousands of people trying to claw their way in for a shot at the American Dream.

While LeBron James has achieved the American Dream, he can’t stop dreaming about Chinese money. And although LeBron did not listen to his words before, I hope he will internalize these words of Dr. King and think of the people in Hong Kong still struggling for their freedom: “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”