Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting Hong Kong protesters, who are seeking to maintain and expand their freedoms, ignited a geopolitical firestorm that is consuming the NBA. The NBA is now caught in a difficult situation – trying to balance its business interests in China with supporting values of free expression.
The league probably wishes the issue would just go away.
At last night’s exhibition between the 76ers and Guangzhou Loong-Lions (a Chinese Basketball Association team) in Philadelphia, two fans – Sam Wachs and his wife – held “FREE HONG KONG” and “FREE HK” signs.
“We were just sitting in our seats near the Chinese bench,” Wachs said.
As they were sitting, Wachs said security confiscated their signs. He then said they were kicked out of the game during the second quarter by security after they yelled, “Free Hong Kong.”
“We were saying, ‘Free Hong Kong,’’ Wachs told NBC10. “What’s wrong with that?”
In a statement on Wednesday, the team said Wells Fargo Center security staff made the decision to eject the couple “following multiple complaints from guests and verbal confrontations with others in attendance….”
The Wells Fargo Center, in its own statement to NBC10, said “After three separate warnings, the two individuals were escorted out of the arena without incident. The security team employed respectful and standard operating procedures.”
Those statements sound at least plausible. Maybe Wachs and his wife were being disruptive, by obstructing views with the sign or some other way.
I really hope they weren’t kicked out due to the content of their signs. Supporting the Hong Kong protesters is not obscene or inappropriate. Silencing that message means siding with the authoritarian Chinese government.
We should wait for more firsthand accounts of what happened before rushing to judgment. But the 76ers – who once blocked a national-anthem singer for wearing a “WE MATTER” shirt – don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt, either.