Sixers: Fans ejected for being disruptive, not for ‘Free Hong Kong’ signs
The Philadelphia 76ers indicated Wednesday that the two fans who were ejected from the team’s exhibition game at Wells Fargo Center were removed due to “their continuing disruption of the fan experience,” not for their signs in support of the Hong Kong protest movement, as the fans claimed afterward.
The incident is among the latest developments to emerge in the wake of the controversy involving the NBA and China that stemmed from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong” tweet earlier this week.
The fan ejections occurred during the Philadelphia 76ers’ exhibition game against the Guangzhou Long-Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association.
Statements issued Wednesday by both the 76ers and Wells Fargo Center dispute that characterization that the two fans were ejected solely because of their signs.
“At last evening’s game, following multiple complaints from guests and verbal confrontations with others in attendance, two individuals were warned by Wells Fargo Center staff about their continuing disruption of the fan experience. Ultimately, the decision was made by Wells Fargo Center personnel to remove the guests from the premises, which was accomplished without incident,” the 76ers statement read, per ESPN.
Sam Wachs, who lived in Hong Kong for two years, told NBC10 in Philadelphia that he and his wife held up signs that read “Free Hong Kong” and “Free HK.”
“We were just sitting in our seats near the Chinese bench,” Wachs said.
As they were sitting, Wachs said security confiscated their signs. He then said they were kicked out of the game during the second quarter by security after they yelled, “Free Hong Kong.”
“We were saying, ‘Free Hong Kong,’’ Wachs told NBC10. “What’s wrong with that?”
The statement issued by Wells Fargo Center to NBC10 said that “[a]fter three separate warnings, the two individuals were escorted out of the arena without incident. The security team employed respectful and standard operating procedures.”
The NBA obviously is in full crisis mode due to the fallout from the ongoing China controversy, and Wednesday’s incident presumably has to be of great concern for the league going forward.