And immediately caused controversy.
Harden wore a Thin Blue Line flag mask. The Thin Blue Line can symbolize support for police – who are said to be the thin blue line separating order from anarchy – but has also become viewed to represent oppression and white supremacy. The mask includes a skull resembling the Punisher logo, which has become another symbol of both police pride and something more menacing.
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) July 17, 2020
Supporting police is not a fringe position. Not even among people – including Harden – who supported the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Mark Berman of Fox 26:
James Harden on how Houston handled the protests for the late George Floyd:”The way the city rallied,it was amazing.I think the world saw it. How so many people could come together..Obviously it was for a tragic reason.The marching&everything we’re standing for is very powerful” pic.twitter.com/7NTkL90l2D
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) July 17, 2020
But the Thin Blue Line mask stands out at a time people – including NBA players – are voicing opposition to police overreach, particularly against black people. Police have always been respected in American society. This is a moment of reckoning into whether police hold too much power. It’s an overdue conversation, and too many people are reflexively praising police without considering the legitimate grievances being raised.
There should be room for differing opinions, though. If Harden wants to show support for police, he has the right to do so. Many people cheered NBA players using their platforms to advance political causes while expecting only certain points of view. It doesn’t work that way.
Maybe Harden picked the mask for style rather than symbolism. If so, he’ll have opportunities to explain that. Many people definitely inferred a deeper meaning. This wouldn’t be Harden’s first clumsy-looking foray into politics.
Or maybe Harden, 30, knew what he was doing.
Either way, especially given the different interpretations of the mask, I’d love to hear more from Harden on this. Some words might be worth more than a picture.