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Andy Nguyen
By Andy Nguyen May 3, 2021

Viral image uses doctored photo to paint LeBron James as pro-China

If Your Time is short

  • The image used in the meme is from the 2018 NBA All-Star game where LeBron James was standing during the United States’ national anthem and not China’s.

A pair of images widely shared on Facebook purport to show that LeBron James is more respectful to China than to the United States.

The top image in the April 23 Facebook post shows James standing with several other NBA players, including Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant, as China’s national flag waves in the background. The caption says, "LeBron during China's national anthem."

The bottom image shows James shouting while other basketball players stand still. The caption says, "LeBron during USA’s national anthem."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The post echoes criticism that has portrayed James as unpatriotic toward the U.S. and deferential to China. Amid pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and China in October 2019, the Lakers star criticized Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey for tweeting a message of support for the protesters while the NBA held an exhibition game in China at the same time, according to NPR.

Meanwhile, James has drawn praise and scorn at times for speaking out against racial injustices and police violence in the U.S. — including supporting silent protests by National Football League players — and criticizing former President Donald Trump as divisive.

We took a closer look at both images in the post, and the original video footage they’re pulled from, to see what was going on.

Although the top image does feature James and the other players standing still during the singing of a national anthem, video shows it wasn’t China’s. 

Featured Fact-check

The players in the photo are wearing jackets with the NBA All-Star Game logo — specifically from the 2018 event held in Los Angeles. 

Video from that event uploaded to YouTube shows the top image used in the Facebook post was a screengrab from when the players were standing during a performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner," and was doctored to add the Chinese flag in the background. The video shows the same moment depicted in the image, but without any Chinese flags in sight.

The bottom image shows James during a performance of the anthem from the Oct. 22, 2019, game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers.

In a video from that game, James could be seen walking away from his lined-up teammates and shouting "let's go" to fans just a note or two before the anthem ended. 

Our ruling

A viral image shared on Facebook claims James was standing still during China's national anthem while shouting during the U.S. anthem.

Both images in the post show James during performances of "The Star-Spangled Banner." One image was doctored to include the Chinese national flag. The other image shows him walking away and shouting to the crowd as the anthem was ending.

The meme uses a manipulated image and takes another image out of context to create a misleading impression.

We rate this claim False.

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More by Andy Nguyen

Viral image uses doctored photo to paint LeBron James as pro-China

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