This season, Comedy Central’s long-running animated program “South Park” has repeatedly targeted American businesses that kowtow to the Chinese government. In its season premiere, the show slammed Disney for its willingness to acquiesce Chinese censors. Last week’s episode featured a character directly insulting the Sino government.
On Wednesday, the program commented on Los Angeles Lakers’ power forward LeBron James’ controversial comments regarding the perils of free speech. Well known for its lacerating brand of satire, the show brilliantly mocked the NBA superstar’s controversial remarks.
‘South Park’ vs. LeBron
In truth, “Let Them Eat Goo” didn’t directly reference James, the National Basketball Association, or China. Instead, the installment focused on mocking companies that make plant-based replacements for meat. Indeed, the episode prominently featured Burger King’s Impossible Whopper. However, “South Park” took digs at James by placing some of his comments regarding the NBA’s Chinese business interests in the mouth of Eric Cartman.
In “Goo’s” B-plot, Cartman became enraged after learning that the school cafeteria replaced beef with plant-based substitutes. He grew even angrier after learning the switch occurred because some of his fellow students complained that the cafeteria didn’t offer meatless meal options. At one point, the character got in an argument with a classmate who said that students have the right to speak up about something they didn’t like.
In response, Cartman bellowed, “Yes, we do have freedom of speech, but at times there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you are not thinking about others and only thinking about yourself.”
As it happens, the hateful fifth-grader directly quoted James’ comments on Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s statement in support of the Hong Kong protests. For satirizing the blatantly self-serving nature of James’ comments, the show delivered one of the best burns in years.
Why ‘South Park’s’ Subtle Dig at LeBron James is So Good
Despite his incredible talents as a basketball player, LeBron James is a human being. Accordingly, it’s not surprising that he made the compounding mistake of saying something stupid in public.
To provide context, the NBA/China/free speech controversy began on October 4 with a fateful tweet. On that day, Morey tweeted, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong”. The GM promptly deleted the tweet and apologized, but his words didn’t defuse the situation.
Indeed, Chinese tech conglomerate Tencent announced that it won’t stream future Rockets games. The NBA attempted to preserve its billion-dollar business partnership by calling Morey’s tweet “regrettable.” However, that statement only upset American fans and U.S. politicians on both sides of the aisle.
On Monday, James, in China to play a few preseason games with the Lakers, broke his silence. The NBA star condemned Morey’s tweet as uneducated and expounded upon the consequences of free speech. Immediately afterward, social media users derided the two-time Olympic gold medal winner for his ambivalent commentary.
Subsequently, James took to Twitter to clarify his position. The athlete stated that he objected to the timing and lack of consideration of Morey’s tweet, not its content. He also said that the executive’s tweet caused him and his team to have a “difficult week.” Notably, the millionaire’s “difficult” time abroad did not include being hit with tear gas or rubber bullets.
As James’ comments tacitly supported the notion of putting profit before principles, he has faced another round of public criticism. Ultimately, the controversy surrounding his remarks will fade. The news cycle is always churning, and “South Park” hasn’t even taken a shot at Blizzard yet. Still, the NBA star will have to live with the shame of being quoted by Cartman forever.