US basketball star LeBron James made himself a target for angry Hong Kong protesters when he criticised an NBA manager for showing support for the city's protest movement.
Protesters burned James' jersey at a demonstration on Tuesday night, while others quickly made memes in English and Cantonese to share online showing James kowtowing to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
James told reporters this week that Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey wasn't "educated on the situation at hand" and could have "harmed" many people when he tweeted support for the Hong Kong protests earlier this month.
The tweet, which was quickly deleted, caused outrage in China, where the Houston Rockets are the NBA's most popular team due to their association with Chinese basketball star Yao Ming.
"We do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that too," James told a press conference.
The NBA star has previously been outspoken on political issues in the United States like the Black Lives Matter movement.
The NBA has made a major push into China over the past two decades, after identifying it as its next market outside of the US.
The controversy has stirred an ongoing debate in the US, where American companies have been slammed domestically for self-censoring on issues related to China.
Australian Associated Press