Two NBA fans who were chanting “Free Hong Kong” and displaying signs with the same message were ejected from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia during an NBA preseason game Tuesday night, according to The Washington Post.
The fans have been identified as Sam Wachs, a Philadelphia resident who spent time living in Hong Kong, and his wife, who has not been named publicly.
Wachs said security confiscated their signs, and then removed them from the arena in the second quarter when they were chanting “Free Hong Kong” near the bench of the Chinese Basketball Association’s the Guangzhou Loong-Lions, who were playing the Philadelphia 76ers.
It should be noted that the NBA does have a policy against “obscene or indecent messages on signs or clothing,” but does not explicitly forbid political messaging.
The 76ers issued a statement saying the fans were behaving in a disruptive fashion and had drawn complaints from other spectators.
“During the second quarter of last night’s 76ers game, Wells Fargo Center security responded to a situation that was disrupting the live event experience for our guests,” that statement read. “After three separate warnings, the two individuals were escorted out of the arena without incident. The security team employed respectful and standard operating procedures.”
The 76ers issued a separate statement accusing the couple of “continuing disruption.”
“The Wells Fargo Center’s event staff is responsible for the security and comfort of all guests at arena events, including 76ers games,” the statement read. “At last evening’s game, following multiple complaints from guests and verbal confrontations with others in attendance, two individuals were warned by Wells Fargo Center staff about their continuing disruption of the fan experience. Ultimately, the decision was made by Wells Fargo Center personnel to remove the guests from the premises, which was accomplished without incident.”
The NBA continues its struggle in balancing a financially-motivated desire to please China, and a basic expectation from Americans that an American sports league won’t punish people for speaking for democracy and against communism. NBA/China relations were severely damaged after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of Hong Kong protesters.
(H/T The Daily Wire)