Hong Kong protesters are punishing brands that take China's side

Hong Kong — LeBron James, a beloved athlete in Hong Kong, has now become a target for anger. The NBA star's remarks earlier this week, which appeared to support China rather than pro-democracy demonstrators in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, outraged the protesters. Those protesters are also punishing major U.S. brands that appear to take China's side.

The NBA and other American businesses like Starbucks have to walk a fine line between principles and profits. One Starbucks has been vandalized over and over by protesters because the franchise owner in Hong Kong condemned the pro-democracy movement. As CBS News correspondent Ramy Inocencio reports, all of the rage is eventually directed at China.

Protesters burned and trampled LeBron James jerseys while, back at home in the U.S., the NBA star stood tall and doubled down. LeBron, famous for speaking up for the disadvantaged, controversially challenged Houston Rockets' General Manager Daryl Morey's tweet in support of Hong Kong's protesters, and it has seemingly affected both his own, and the league's bottom line.  

"He made the choice that he had to say something, and there wasn't a whole lot of things that he could've said, but this was clearly not the thing that lived up to the image that he has carved out for himself and that people hold him to," said New Yorker staff writer Evan Osnos. 

LeBron James facing backlash over China comments

LeBron James' net worth of roughly $400 million almost compares to a large corporation, and a large portion of that revenue can be linked to China. The NBA says there are about twice as many pro-basketball fans in China as there are people in the United States, and for James, that's too big a market to ignore.

"LeBron is a unique figure in that world, and so for him he risks, in his mind, not only hurting potentially the league, but also hurting his own significant profile there," Osnos said.

Besides the NBA, protesters may be looking to target McDonald's and Apple in Hong Kong. The iPhone maker pulled an app from its China store that helped protesters there avoid or target police, and McDonald's in Hong Kong is majority owned by a Chinese company.