Free Speech

Philadelphia 76ers Fans Ejected from Preseason Game for Supporting Hong Kong—UPDATED

Apparently the NBA's kow-towing to Communist China is not limited to groveling press statements.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

(Update Below)

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.

UPDATE: Statements issued by the Philadelphia 76ers and the Wells Fargo Center claim the two fans were ejected for disruptive behavior. From an NBC10 news report:

In a statement on Wednesday, the team said Wells Fargo Center security staff made the decision to eject the couple "following multiple complaints from guests and verbal confrontations with others in attendance…."

The Wells Fargo Center, in its own statement to NBC10, said "After three separate warnings, the two individuals were escorted out of the arena without incident. The security team employed respectful and standard operating procedures."

More from the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Wachs said he and his wife were silent until their signs were taken away but acknowledged standing on his chair to shout "Free Hong Kong" and debating with fans of the Chinese team who "swore at me and repeated Chinese government disinformation about the Hong Kong protests."

He said the guards who escorted them out were "not particularly rude" and; "just seemed to be just doing their job. "

"It's just a shame that their job entails silencing people who try to speak out about the NBAs business dealings with a corrupt regime," Wachs said. . . .

The Wells Fargo Center's policy for signs requires that signs be no larger than 14 inches by 14 inches, not attached to a stick or a pole, and "be in good taste, and appropriate for the event."

"This policy is subject to change based on The Wells Fargo Center management's discretion and without notice," it says.

As for the signs in question, they are visible here:

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  1. As long as no one is kneeling during the National Anthem … then freedom freedom freedom!!

    1. There’s a meme forming these are related, as players’ future salaries are tied to China, and its in their interest to tear down concepts of freedom in the US.

      I don’t believe it, but it’s happening.

      1. Tells you more about those trying to turn that into a meme than it does about reality.

  2. Crazy.

    https://www.engadget.com/2019/10/08/blizzard-bans-hearthstone-player-for-hong-kong-protest/

    The esports world is finding itself embroiled in a political dispute. Blizzard has banned pro Hearthstone player Ng Wai Chung (aka Blitzchung) for a year after he voiced support for Hong Kong protesters in a post-match interview. The statement allegedly violated rules forbidding players from saying something that “offends a portion or group of the public” or “otherwise damages” Blizzard’s image.

  3. “I’m a nationalist because I don’t want to live in a world where Communist China can force American companies to parrot their authoritarian talking points” https://twitter.com/willchamberlain/status/1181641031202291718

  4. Saying it’s “unconscionable” that a political protest is stopped at a sporting event seems extreme. Is a private sporting event required to be a political platform (or was this put on by a domestic government agency)? Perhaps they should not have ejected the protesters but I’m not sure we want to get to the point where competing political groups are yelling at each other or rioting after sports events. The problems between fans of opposing teams are large enough without introducing black masks and pussy hats.

    1. They have a right to stop it, and we have a right to complain until the NBA is a bleeding near-corpse hemorrhaging cash.

      People here yabber about tiny things and being “on the right side of history.”

      Well, actual old-school history ain’t quite over, yet.

  5. Perhaps if the Chinese government objects to having people criticize it for repressing people, it should try refraining from repressing people.

    1. Wow. You posted something I agree with.

  6. Naked capitalism is ugly.

    Not that we should regulate this, but the norm of corporate citizenship – that corporations should look to do more for their communities than be profit-maximizing machines – is a thing we should look into.

    More actively, the NFL and Blizzard made (as they are required to do) the cost-benefit that the PR hit was worth it. We should make sure that’s not the case.

  7. If the 76ers banned pro Hong Kong signs but not signs supporting the People’s Republic of China, I would be very upset. But I am in favor of sports venues prohibiting all political signs. People are into sports partly as a distraction from real life. Society is worse off when all aspects of life are politicized.

  8. Fuck the NBA.

    There are very few subjects on which I agree with Bobby Knight, but the NBA is one of them.

    “If the NBA was on channel five and a bunch of frogs making love were on channel four, I’d watch the frogs, even if they were coming in fuzzy.” — Bobby Knight

    1. Frogs having sex is the male on the female’s back spurting sperm on the eggs as she expels them in pond water.

  9. I love the hypocrisy the china situation has exposed. Companies that have no problem virtue signaling and boycotting states like Georgia and North Carolina have no problem cucking to china.

    Reminds me of Hollywood refusing to film in Georgia, but being willing to film in countries with worse human rights records than us. And of course Hollywood cucks to china too. Spoiler alert: if your principles end at the waters edge they aren’t principles

  10. “Adam Silver claims the NBA supports free speech . . . ” Except, of course, for Donald Sterling. (That’s *bad* free speech.) And speech that constitutes tampering. (Almost as bad.)

  11. What would the Sixers (or any NBA team) do if a large number of fans starting chanting “Free Hong Kong” during the game. Eject them all? What if it was a solid majority of fans? What if this game was broadcast in China?

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