Roughly thirty-five demonstrators rallied outside of Toyota Center in Houston on Saturday night, to support the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and embattled Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey.
According to ESPN:
As fans filed into the arena, the demonstrators gathered in the entrance plaza, wearing black T-shirts emblazoned with the words ‘Fight For Freedom’ on the front and ‘China, Stop Bullying”‘ on the back. They held American flags as well as signs expressing support for free expression and criticizing the Chinese government. Two attendees held a large, gold banner that read, ‘Hong Kong’s fight is everyone’s fight.’
The rally was coordinated by two local groups: the Vietnamese Community of Houston and Vicinities and Texas for Hong Kong. The same coalition organized approximately 30 people on Thursday for the Rockets’ home opener, and they sat behind the south basket and stood holding their signs during stoppages in play.
On October 4th, Morey posted a tweet in support of pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong. Despite almost immediately deleting the tweet, China reacted harshly by canceling several TV and streaming broadcasts, and several other business deals with the NBA.
However, while damage may have been done to the NBA’s standing with communist China, in Hong Kong and in much of the the United States, Morey’s tweet was well-received.
“My reaction [to the Morey tweet] was, ‘Great, someone is supporting and publicly speaking for Hong Kong,'” said Chris Wong, a research scientist and Hong Kong native who helped organize the demonstrations at Toyota Center. “But the reaction from the Chinese government and the machinery in China was such an overreaction just for someone sending out a symbolic tweet. I was mad.”
LeBron James also found himself the target of protests. Fanny Wong, a CPA who immigrated to the United States from Macao in the 1970’s, wore a shirt that read: “Stand with Hong Kong, Be Taller than LeBron, who kneels down for ¥¥¥ [the symbol for Chinese Yuan].”
“I can understand that a lot of athletes, they have a lot of financial investment,” Wong told ESPN. “What I would appreciate is that they be honest about that. Just say, ‘We have a lot of interests at stake there, and there are certain things we need to compromise.’ I’d respect that. They stood for justice somewhere else when there’s no financial conflict of interest. But then where there is a conflict of financial interest, ‘Oh, wait a minute. We don’t understand.’ To me, that’s a lie. I’d respect it more if they were honest about it.”
“As game time neared, the group began to chant, ‘Stand for freedom, no censorship,’ before breaking into staccato chants of ‘Morey, Morey, Morey’ and then ‘NBA, NBA, NBA,’ ESPN reports.
The Rockets beat the Pelicans 126-123.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn