As the NBA deals with fallout from a team executive’s tweet supporting the Hong Kong protesters, a fan in Philly was booted from a Sixers game for expressing a similar sentiment.
Sam Wachs told WPVI-TV he and his wife were ejected from a preseason game at the Wells Fargo Center Tuesday night — a matchup between the Philadelphia 76ers and China’s Guangzhou Loong-Lions — after he yelled “Free Hong Kong” and the pair held up signs supporting Hong Kong in its struggle against China's encroachment. The signs were confiscated by security.
"[They said] there's no foul language, no politics. I asked why not. They said, 'Don't give me a hard time," Wachs told the local ABC affiliate station.
Wachs said it was after he yelled “Free Hong Kong” that they got ejected.
"I think it's a shameful, harsh reaction," he told WPVI-TV.
Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong have demonstrated for months over fears of Beijing’s increasing influence over the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
The incident in Philly comes right on the heels of a pro-Hong Kong tweet from the Houston Rockets GM that sparked an international incident and an uncomfortable situation for the NBA, which has massive business interests in mainland China.
Daryl Morey simply tweeted, then quickly deleted: “Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” By Monday that tweet had sparked a standoff between China and the NBA, as the Chinese Basketball Association, Tencent Sports, and other brands dropped ties with Houston’s franchise. The Rockets had previously been the most popular team with Chinese fans, who started following the franchise when it drafted star Yao Ming in 2002.
The NBA has said it supports Morey’s right to free speech while dancing around the issue of the protests in Hong Kong. There’s a lot of money tied up in China.
"There is no doubt, the economic impact is already clear," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told reporters Tuesday. "There have already been fairly dramatic consequences from that tweet, and I have read some of the media suggesting we are not supporting Daryl Morey, but in fact we have.”
NBA events scheduled to take place in China this week have been cancelled and Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said it won’t air two preseason games scheduled to be played in the country.
And the NBA isn’t the only sporting league dealing with outrage this week over how it has handled an issue with China. Activision Blizzard has come under fire after it suspended e-sports pro Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai for supporting Hong Kong protesters during a post-match interview.
Prominent U.S. politicians have gone after both the NBA and Blizzard, saying they’ve buckled under Chinese pressure.
“Blizzard’s decision to censor a player who voiced support for the Hong Kong protests is part of a profoundly disturbing trend by American entities like the NBA bending over backward to appease the Chinese government,” Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden told VICE. “China’s repression of peaceful dissent is disgusting when it happens in China, but it is incredibly disturbing that American companies would willingly participate in the Chinese government’s propaganda campaign."
Cover: Fans hold signs ahead of a an NBA exhibition basketball game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Guangzhou Loong-Lions on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)