76ers fan supporting Hong Kong ejected from preseason game against Chinese squad in Philadelphia
Wed, 09 Oct 2019 16:15

76ers fan supporting Hong Kong ejected from preseason game against Chinese squad in Philadelphia

Wed, 09 Oct 2019 16:15

Marcus Georges-Hunt #9 of the Guangzhou Long Lions handles the ball against the Philadelphia 76ers during a pre-season game on October 8, 2019 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

76ers fan supporting Hong Kong ejected from preseason game against Chinese squad in Philadelphia
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Jesse D. Garrabrant | National Basketball Association | Getty Images
A fan was reportedly ejected from a Philadelphia 76ers preseason game on Tuesday after holding signs and shouting support for Hong Kong during the game against the Guangzhou Loong Lions, a squad from China.

Sam Wachs said he and his wife were silently holding signs that said "Free Hong Kong" during the game at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
"I was being heckled by fans of the visiting Guangzhou team who swore at me and repeated Chinese government disinformation," Wachs said in response to a question from CNBC on his Facebook page. 

The signs were confiscated by security at the stadium and Wachs and his wife were kicked out, he said.

"Got kicked out of the Philadelphia 76ers game against Guangzhou tonight for bringing these / chanting my support of Hong Kong," Wachs posted on Facebook on Tuesday night. "The NBA is pretty cowardly when it comes to pressure from the Chinese government."

Representatives for the Philadelphia 76ers and Wells Fargo Center did not immediately respond to CNBCs request for comment but are expected to issue a statement about the matter later Wednesday.

An NBA official said Wachs, who was sitting behind the Chinese team, was involved in "multiple confrontations" with other fans and was warned by the visiting team to keep quiet. He was removed from the stadium by local security after the Chinese team said he had ignored several of their warnings, the official said.
Wachs said he wasnt intentionally confrontational.

"When I was ejected, Id say I was disruptive in the sense that I was standing in my seat. But I did not go about this protest in a confrontational way. I only stood and began to chant after signs were taken away," he told CNBC.

The NBA is facing intense criticism in mainland China since Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey backed the anti-government protests in a now-deleted tweet over the weekend that said, "Fight for Freedom. Stand for Hong Kong."

The tweet was quickly deleted and Morey apologized, but his comments drew backlash in China.

The NBA released a statement about Morey on Sunday that was translated into Chinese for the leagues verified account on Chinese social media platform Weibo. A CNBC translation of the post found differences between the English and Chinese version, which sparked criticism in the U.S. for its decidedly more apologetic tone.

The leagues commissioner, Adam Silver, apologized for offending the leagues Chinese fans, but he stood by Moreys right to express his opinions, saying the league would "protect its employees freedom of speech."

By Wednesday, nearly all of the NBAs Chinese partners had publicly announced that they were ending or suspending their relationships with the league.

Earlier this week, Chinese tech giant Tencent, Luckin Coffee and Vivo announced the suspension of their relationships with the NBA.

— CNBCs Eunice Yoon, Amelia Lucas, Lilian Wu and Jabari Young contributed to this report.