In less than a week, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet in support of protests in Hong Kong, the Rockets and NBA’s censuring of the post and China’s scorched-earth reaction against the conversation have created an issue that will simply not go away for the league.
The matter had already reached Washington D.C., where presidential candidates and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle blasted an NBA statement that seemed designed to placate China at the expense of its own employee. President Donald Trump also weighed in, but only to chide past critics of his for failing to also condemn China.
Now, Washington’s local NBA team is also hearing the noise.
Wizards game sees several Hong Kong protesters
A day after a couple at a Philadelphia 76ers preseason game was ejected for holding up signs reading “Free Hong Kong” near the bench of China’s Guangzhou Loong Lions, a Washington Wizards exhibition against the same team saw even more vocal protesters on Wednesday.
Activists carrying signs reading “Free Hong Kong,” “Freedom is a universal value” and “Shame on the NBA” were seen outside multiple entrances to the Capital One Arena.
Happening now outside Capital One Arena pic.twitter.com/DfNDP7HPvK— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) October 9, 2019
Protests going on outside of Capital One Arena for tonight’s Wizards game Guangzhou Loong-Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association pic.twitter.com/vmYDyMyx0n— Troy Haliburton (@TroyHalibur) October 9, 2019
Another group of the demonstrators hand out the same black and yellow “Free Hong Kong” t shirts in the pedestrian alley off 7th Street pic.twitter.com/DdnHSHeaHP— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) October 9, 2019
Even more protesters made it into the game, including one man holding a sign who yelled “Freedom of speech, free Hong Kong,” after the singing of the Chinese national anthem.
At the end of the Chinese national anthem and during the silence before the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, a protestor screams “Free Hong Kong!” while holding a sign. He walks out of the arena peacefully, followed by an usher. pic.twitter.com/H9JrZHb9FO— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) October 9, 2019
A group of protesters also captured on video an interaction with an official in which their “Google Uyghurs” sign was confiscated.
The sign refers to the Uyghurs, a Muslim ethnic group that is experiencing mass imprisonment by the Chinese government and even reports of forced organ harvesting. Roughly a million members of the group are reportedly held in camps in the Xinjiang region, where the NBA also holds a training center.
Our “Google Uyghurs” sign has been confiscated. pic.twitter.com/fX4tF4oOxR— Jon Schweppe (@JonSchweppe) October 9, 2019
The official confronting the protesters can be heard telling them “We’re not allowing any political signs.” That even just two words calling attention to the plight of the Uyghurs can be considered too political for the league as it frantically tries to avoid losing its lucrative Chinese market without hurting its own domestic reputation tells you a lot about where we are right now.
Asked about the protests after the game, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks predictably avoided voicing any sort of thought on the matter.
#Wizards coach Scott Brooks was asked about the several protests that occurred during the game against a team from the Chinese Basketball Association. At least a dozen times people shouted pro-Hong Kong messages.— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) October 10, 2019
Here are the complete questions and Brooks’ responses in full. pic.twitter.com/wvQslpps3G
Wednesday’s game in Washington undoubtedly won’t be the last time we hear about the Hong Kong protests, which were sparked in the semi-autonomous state during the summer over a bill that would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to the mainland.
Morey’s tweet called plenty of attention to the protests, which have experienced human rights violations at the hands of police according to Amnesty International. China’s complete erasure of the Rockets in the country and attempts to suppress the conversation have done so even more.
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