Hong Kong Protesters Don NBA Jerseys for Anti-LeBron Basketball Game

SHENZHEN, CHINA - OCTOBER 12: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts during the match against the Brooklyn Nets during a preseason game as part of 2019 NBA Global Games China at Shenzhen Universiade Center on October 12, 2019 in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China. (Photo by Zhong Zhi/Getty Images)
Zhong Zhi/Getty Images

In the wake of basketball star LeBron James bowing to Communist China and criticizing Houston Rockets Manager Daryl Morey for speaking up on behalf of Hong Kong, protesters there decided to stage a cheeky demonstration on Tuesday night in which they will put on NBA jerseys and play street basketball.

The controversy began with Morey tweeting “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong” on October 4. 

Communist China reacted with characteristic fury, flexing its “sharp power” muscles by threatening to cut off lucrative business arrangements with the American basketball league unless players and management stuck to Beijing’s line on the Hong Kong protests. 

On Monday, James remarked that he thought Morey was not properly “educated” on the human rights situation in China and worried that the Rockets general manager could cause financial damage to the league and its players by making remarks that angered the Chinese Communist Party.

The NBA faced boycott threats from Chinese fans upset by Morey’s criticism but, in the end, most fans attended the games played in China, although some wore NBA jerseys with Chinese Communist flags taped over the NBA logos to show their displeasure.

Hong Kong residents have, to date, been a bit more muted in criticizing the NBA from their side of the debate than Chinese fans were. Several dozen Hong Kongers turned up at a preseason basketball game in New York on Friday to show their support for Morey, but that was before James entered the scuffle:

(The “Free Winnie the Pooh” sign in the video is a reference to China’s ban on the lovable bear because critics of Chinese President Xi Jinping enjoy comparing his rotund physique to that of Pooh.)

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