When it comes to showing their true colors, the Philadelphia 76ers seems to be flying the red banner in the face of ongoing pressure from Chinese interests.
Longtime fan Sam Wachs and his wife were ejected from the preseason game against the Chinese Guangzhou Loong Lions on Tuesday, after the couple held up signs supporting the pro-democracy factions currently opposing authorities in Hong Kong.
“There’s no foul language, no politics.’ I asked ‘Why not?’ They said, ‘Don’t give me a hard time,'” Wachs told 6ABC.
Slighted by the ineffectual strong-arming, Wachs shouted “Free Hong Kong!” before leaving the arena.
The controversy surrounds Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey’s support of the pro-liberty protesters in Hong Kong, and the subsequent kowtowing by the NBA to appease the Chinese state broadcasters, who moved in quickly to punish both the Houston Rockets and the NBA.
With over 1.4 billion people in China and basketball being a popular sport in the country, the NBA looks to the east for millions of dollars in revenue.
In response, US politicians from both sides of the aisle criticized the NBA -which often flaunts its leadership on social-justice issues- for effectively grovelling before a totalitarian regime known for running its citizens over with tanks.
The incident highlighted the relationship between China and the NBA, which was recently lampooned on the Comedy Central show, South Park. In the episode, “Band in China,” show creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker mocked the NBA for choosing financial gain over democratic values and principles.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has made arrangements to travel to Shanghai in hopes of negotiating with the Chinese state-run media.
Silver had previously defended Morey to an extent, claiming that he had every right to say what he said.
“Daryl Morey, as general manager of the Houston Rockets, enjoys that right as one of our employees,” Silver said. “What I also tried to suggest is that I understand there are consequences from his freedom of speech and we will have to live with those consequences.”
China, however, was not so understanding.
“We’re strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver’s claim to support Morey’s right to freedom of expression,” Chinese state-run media channel CCTV said in a statement. “We believe that any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability are not within the scope of freedom of speech.”
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