A Philadelphia 76ers fan says he and his wife were ejected from a game Tuesday night after showing support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. The incident comes amidbetween the NBA and China after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey a tweet supporting the protesters.
The 76ers said in a statement Wednesday that the fans were removed from the game against the Guangzhou Loong Lions because of “their continuing disruption of the fan experience.”
“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,” the statement said. “Ultimately, the decision was made by Wells Fargo Center personnel to remove the guests from the premises, which was accomplished without incident.”
Sam Wachs, 33, told CBS Philadelphia that he and his wife brought in several pro-Hong Kong signs and yelled “Free Hong Kong.” Wachs was sitting behind the Guangzhou bench when he and his wife held up two signs that read “Free Hong Kong” and “Free HK.”
The Philadelphia resident, who lived in Hong Kong for two years, was also wearing a “Free Hong Kong” T-shirt.
Wachs told the Philadelphia Inquirer he felt he needed to “do something” after the controversy unfolded following Morey’s tweet. “I don’t think the NBA should be bending over backwards to please China,” he said.
The NBA is scrambling in its response after a number of Chinese businesses severed ties with the league, which draws a significant audience from China.
However, NBA commissioner Adam Silver came to Morey’s defense on Tuesday, defending his right to free speech. “I think as a values-based organization that I want to make it clear that Daryl Morey is supported in terms of his ability to exercise his freedom of expression.”