The NBA’s ongoing China controversy seeped into its highly anticipated Lakers-Clippers opener in Los Angeles on Tuesday, as a group of activists did their best to make sure the message from Daryl Morey’s now-deleted tweet was all over Staples Center.
Approximately 13,000 T-shirts reading “Fight for freedom, Stand with Hong Kong” were handed out in the streets around Staples Center in the hours before the game tipped off. That message is the same one Morey tweeted out a few weeks ago, which led to a scorched-earth response from China.
These T-shirts, approximately 13,000 of them, were printed and hauled out to downtown L.A. in a moving van and are currently being handed out on the streets surrounding Staples Center for free, hours before Lakers-Clippers tips off pic.twitter.com/snbGdd5zSG
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) October 23, 2019
The activists obviously didn’t do so with the approval of the stadium operations staff, though.
— L.A. Times Sports (@latimessports) October 23, 2019
At least one of the shirts made it into the Staples Center, and in very public fashion.
The Clippers’ Gangnam Style cam landed on a child holding up a Clippers shirt, but as soon as he saw himself on the Jumbotron, the Clippers shirts was dropped to reveal a Hong Kong shirt. Oops.
the best clip to start the NBA season is this kid baiting the broadcast into flashing a "Fight for freedom stand with Hong Kong" sign on TV and then the cameraman pans away pic.twitter.com/B30ubY63CX
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) October 23, 2019
The camera quickly panned away from the shirt, but not quick enough to stop the message.
A similar effort to hand out pro-Hong Kong T-shirts was also planned for the other season-opener of the night in Toronto.
The Hong Kong flag also made an appearance in the broadcast of TNT’s pregame show outside Staples Center, waiving behind Charles Barkley and company. Shaquille O’Neal himself also weighed in, saying, “Daryl Morey was right.”
Hong Kong flag in prime position behind TNT’s halftime show pic.twitter.com/MQjWJoCPr5
— Henry Bushnell (@HenryBushnell) October 23, 2019
This is just the latest incident in which pro-Hong Kong protesters have shown up at NBA games. A pair of protesters were ejected from a Philadelphia 76ers preseason exhibition against China’s Guangzhou Loong Lions, and even more protesters showed up when the Lions visited the Washington Wizards.
Of course, neither of those games were close to the visibility of a season-opener against the Clippers and Lakers, two of the NBA’s top title contenders that feature some of the brightest stars in the league.
One of those stars, LeBron James, has already seen a massive backlash for his comments on the matter. The noise figures to only continue for the foreseeable future.
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