Sixers Fans Ejected from Preseason Game against Chinese Team over ‘Free Hong Kong’ Signs

Philadelphia 76ers guard Jimmy Butler dribbles the ball against Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry at the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, May 12, 2019. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

A pair of Philadelphia 76ers fans said they were escorted out of Tuesday evening’s game after they expressed support for the pro-democracy protests underway in Hong Kong.

Sam Wachs, 33, claims security ejected him and his wife from Wells Fargo Center after they held up signs reading “Free Hong Kong” and shouted the same slogan at the Sixers’ exhibition game against Guangzhou Loong Lions, a Chinese Basketball Association team.

Wachs, who lived in Hong Kong before moving to Philadelphia, was seated directly behind the Guangzhou bench and was also sporting a “Free Hong Kong” T-shirt. He said security first informed him, “no politics” and later confiscated his signs. He was finally ejected from the game later when he stood up and yelled “Free Hong Kong.”

“Signs must be in good taste and appropriate for the event,” reads Wells Fargo Center’s policy, but adds that the “policy is subject to change based on the Wells Fargo Center management’s discretion and without notice.”

The incident comes as the NBA continues to weather criticism for apologizing to China over a tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey expressing support for the Hong Kong demonstrators. Morey tweeted and deleted a logo with the phrase, “Fight for Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong.”

The expression of support angered Chinese sponsors of the NBA, some of whom pulled their sponsorships. The NBA then released an apologetic statement distancing itself from Morey’s tweet,  saying the Rockets general manager “does not represent the Rockets or the NBA,” a move that sparked severe criticism in the U.S.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver attempted to appease both sides Tuesday, saying that Morey enjoys the right to free speech as an NBA employee but that “there are consequences from his freedom of speech and we will have to live with those consequences.”

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