76ers say fans who held up signs supporting the protests in Hong Kong were ejected for verbal confrontations and 'disrupting the fan experience'
- The NBA is still managing the fallout of Daryl Morey's tweet in support of the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.
- On Tuesday, the controversy made its way into the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, where two 76ers fans were escorted out of the arena after holding up signs and cheering in support of the protests.
- In a statement, the Wells Fargo Center described the scene as a "situation that was disrupting the live event experience of our guests," and said that several warnings were given before the fans were ejected.
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The NBA is still attempting to navigate its way through a controversy that began with a tweet last week.
On Friday, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey posted a message supporting the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. The tweet was immediately met with criticism from the NBA's business partners in China, who pulled out of events as the Rockets front office and league commissioner Adam Silver went into damage control.Read more: The NBA has already felt 'economic impact' from Daryl Morey's pro-Hong Kong tweet - Here all the moves that have been made by China
On Tuesday night, the debate surrounding free speech in regard to the protests in Hong Kong came to a head at the Philadelphia 76ers exhibition game against the Guangzhou Loong-Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association - a tune-up ahead of the start of the regular season.
At the game, two fans held up signs that read "Free Hong Kong" and "Free HK" in the stands. As Sam Wachs told CBS3, security took the signs shortly after tip-off, telling him "no politics."
Wachs said that he lived in Hong Kong for two years and supported the protests. He and his wife were escorted out of the arena in the second quarter of the game after he stood up and yelled "Free Hong Kong."
Wachs later tweeted a video of him and his wife being escorted out of the arena by security, saying "Hey @NBA @sixers - you are letting greed get the better of you. It matters who you do business with. Stand up to China."
In a statement, the Sixers deferred to the Wells Fargo Center on specific decisions regarding the "security and comfort" of fans in attendance.
With their own statement, the Wells Fargo Center described the event as a "situation that was disrupting the live event experience of our guests," and said Wachs was given three separate warnings before eventually being removed.
Wachs' protest, and more like them in the future, could put the NBA in another uncomfortable position, having to strike a balance between the league's reputation as a progressive league that encourages speech and its financial interests, both abroad in China and in arenas across the country.
"We were saying, 'Free Hong Kong,'' Wachs told NBC10. "What's wrong with that?"Jimmy Butler arrived for the first Heat practice at 3:30 a.m., and now other players are following suit