The NBA’s efforts to please the Chinese government appear not to be limited to the issuance of obsequious press statements and the disavowal of criticism of the oppressive Communist regime.
Last night, at an NBA preseason game in Philadelphia between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Chinese Basketball Association’s Guangzhou Loong-Lions, two fans were reportedly ejected for showing support for freedom in Hong Kong. As a result, evidence that Sixers star Ben Simmons has finally learned how to shoot was overshadowed by the NBA’s latest effort to curry favor with China’s oppressive regime.
According to multiple press reports, security officials at the Wells Fargo Center first confiscated the fans’ “Free Hong Kong” and “Free HK” signs. Then, when one of the fans responded by yelling “Free Hong Kong,” they were removed from the arena. If these reports are accurate, these actions are unconscionable.
The NBA’s posture toward China is bad enough, but it’s particularly troubling to hear of such events in Philadelphia (birthplace of the Declaration of Independence) at a 76ers game (given the inspiration for the teams name) and in an arena owned by Spectacor, the company founded and formerly owned by noted anti-communist Ed Snider (the same Snider who didn’t want his Philadelphia Flyers to have to play the Soviet Union’s Red Army team, leading to one of the most famous hockey games of all time). Adam Silver claims the NBA supports free speech, but actions speak louder than words.
Perhaps there was a misunderstanding, and perhaps the fans were ejected for some other behavior—though they deny using any profanity or objectionable language. The 76ers organization has yet to comment. But the idea that a fan would be ejected from a game for showing their support for freedom is deeply troubling. Indeed, it’s enough to make one want to use the Wells Fargo Center’s new Rage Room.