A Philadelphia 76ers fan said he was kicked out of the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday for supporting the human rights protests in Hong Kong that have pitted the NBA and China against each other over the expression of free speech.
Sam Wachs told NBC10 in Philadelphia that he and his wife brought a pair of signs that read "Free Hong Kong" and "Free HK" as the Sixers took on the Guangzhou Long-Lions, a Chinese Basketball Association team. Wachs told the news station he lived in Hong Kong for two years and is sympathetic to the protesters' causes.
First, security confiscated the signs. When they yelled "Free Hong Kong" during the second quarter, Wachs said, they were removed from the game.
these are the signs that led to two fans being kicked out of Tuesday’s 76ers vs. Guangzhou Loong Lions game *in Philadelphia* pic.twitter.com/xzQxhNyqIy— David Paulk 波大卫 (@davidpaulk) October 9, 2019
"We were saying, 'Free Hong Kong,'" he told NBC10. "What's wrong with that?"
USA TODAY Sports' message left for the 76ers has not been immediately returned.
The NBA has been dealing with the fallout from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's tweet in support of the Hong Kong protesters since last week. (Morey later deleted the tweet and offered an apology.) On Tuesday, Chinese authorities arrested a Rockets fan who threatened to burn the national flag while wearing a team jersey.
The Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers are scheduled to play the first of two preseason games in China on Thursday, but the media sessions and charity events leading up to the games were postponed.
Chinese state television CCTV has said it will not broadcast any preseason games and that the league's defense of freedom of speech does not apply to matters of national sovereignty in the country.