The National Basketball Association (NBA) began its new season on Oct. 23 and entering its games in Toronto and Los Angeles were thousands of fans clad in outfits displaying their support for Hong Kong.
A tweet from the general manager of the Houston Rockets Daryl Morey has damaged the ties between the NBA and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Morey’s tweet said, “Stand With Hong Kong.” While the NBA has apologized to the regime, players like Lebron James have taken it a step further—as far as calling Morey “misinformed” and selfish for showing public support for Hong Kong.
“I don’t think it’s fair to expect every basketball player to understand what’s going on in Hong Kong,” said Sun Lared—his pseudonym—in an interview with NTD News in Los Angeles. “But I do think we should expect that as an American, Lebron James, should be able to stand up for free speech and stand up for the right of his fellow NBA colleagues to say what they believe.”
— Sun (@Sun_DMoreyFan) October 22, 2019
Lared produced 13,000 shirts that said “Fight for Freedom, Stand With Hong Kong” and passed them out to fans before the game. To purchase the t-shirts, he accumulated over $42,000 through a GoFundMe campaign.
“But I think it’s wrong to say, ‘people should be careful what they say’ or ‘be careful what they tweet’—which is what [Lebron] said—because that’s exactly the kind of self-censorship that China successfully has inside their own country.
“You can’t say anything bad about the country,'” he continued.
the best clip to start the NBA season is this kid baiting the broadcast into flashing a “Fight for freedom stand with Hong Kong” sign on TV and then the cameraman pans away pic.twitter.com/B30ubY63CX
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) October 23, 2019
Shaquille O’Neal Defends Morey
NBA legend Shaq defended Morey for exercising his right to free speech when the season began.
And echoing the Hall of Famer’s support for free speech, thousands of people entered the Toronto arena.
“We stand with Hong Kong,” said Mimi Lee, the organizer of another free t-shirt giveaway. “We stand with freedom of speech, freedom of expression because the Chinese influence has already gone into [the] NBA. We want to stop it.”
— Mimi Lee (@trufinancial) October 23, 2019
Lee with the Torontonian Hong Kongers Action Group also created a GoFundMe campaign for a Stand With Hong Kong t-shirt giveaway which raised over $34,000.
Outside the arena, more than 100 volunteers gave out 7,000 shirts to Raptors fans.
“If you don’t stand up for the rights of other people—whether they’re in your country or not—it’s only a matter of time before it starts spreading somewhere more close to you, and then maybe it’s too late, you know?” said Daryl, one of the volunteers.
Inside, despite the camera operators’ efforts to avoid the t-shirts, fans were seen on the jumbotron.
Did #MSLE deliberately avoid showing thetee on the big screen??? ???????????? ????????????#Raptors #Nbaopeningday #WeTheNorth #StandWithHongKong #Toronto #TorontoRaptors #FreeHongKong #光復香港 #香港人加油 pic.twitter.com/DRG1gfu1Kp
— THKAG_CAN (@THKAG_CAN) October 23, 2019
NTD Reporters Arek Rusek and Zack Li contributed to this article.