WASHINGTON DC (AP) — Protesters handed out T-shirts and held up signs in support of Hong Kong on Wednesday night when the Washington Wizards hosted a team from the Chinese Basketball Association.
The Wizards beat the Guangzhou Long-Lions 137-98 in a game that included more than a half-dozen protests inside Capital One Arena over the NBA’s ongoing rift with the Chinese government.
Protesters handed out “Free Hong Kong” T-shirts on the street outside the arena before the exhibition game. The protesters, who said they were from Freedom House, held up signs reading, “Shame the NBA,” ″South Park was right” and “Memo to the NBA: Principles over profit! No censorship! USA loves Hong Kong.”
The problems between the NBA and China began after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey posted a tweet last week that showed support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong.
The NBA has not apologized for Morey’s remarks.
A Freedom House spokeswoman said some members were planning to protest inside during the game. A spokeswoman for Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation said the group was planning to hand out T-shirts inside the arena during the game in various sections close to the court.
Inside the arena, there were a handful of disruptions in the crowd.
After the playing of the Chinese national anthem, one fan shouted, “Freedom of expression! Freedom of speech! Free Hong Kong!” Another fan shouted for a free Hong Kong from the second level during the second quarter.
Minutes later, security approached one fan holding up a “Free Tibet” sign and another holding the Tibet flag. Security tried to take the sign, and the fan refused to give it up. Security then followed them from their seats and out of the lower bowl.
Wizards coach Scott Brooks said that he heard one protester at the end of the Chinese national anthem.
“Other than that, I didn’t hear it,” Brooks said. “I was focused on the game.”
Brooks said he didn’t hear any of his players talk about the protests and he never mentioned it to his players.
A Wizards spokesman said in a statement: “The building security staff removed signs tonight in accordance with Capital One Arena’s long-standing signs, banners, posters and flag policy. No fans were asked to leave the game.”
A similar scene played out in Philadelphia on Tuesday during a game between Guangzhou and the 76ers. Two fans were removed by arena security for holding signs and chanting in support of Hong Kong.
CJ Harris had 25 points in the loss for the Chinese team.