October 16, 2019 Finance and Tech Publication

76ers fan supporting Hong Kong ejected from preseason game against Chinese squad in Philadelphia

Marcus Georges-Hunt #9 of the Guangzhou Long Lions handles the ball against the Philadelphia 76ers during a pre-season game on October 8, 2019 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE

Jesse D. Garrabrant | National Basketball Association | Getty Images

A fan was reportedly ejected from a Philadelphia 76ers preseason game on Tuesday after holding signs and shouting support for Hong Kong during the game against the Guangzhou Loong Lions, a squad from China.

Sam Wachs and his wife were holding signs that said “Free Hong Kong” during the game at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, according to a report by an ABC News affiliate in Philadelphia.

The signs were allegedly confiscated by security at the stadium and Wachs and his wife were kicked out.

“Got kicked out of the Philadelphia 76ers game against Guangzhou tonight for bringing these / chanting my support of Hong Kong,” Wachs posted on Facebook on Tuesday night. “The NBA is pretty cowardly when it comes to pressure from the Chinese government.”

Representatives for the Philadelphia 76ers and Wells Fargo Center did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment but are expected to issue a statement about the matter later Wednesday, according to an official for the National Basketball Association.

Wachs also did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

The NBA official said the fan, who was sitting behind the Chinese team, was involved in “multiple confrontations” with other fans and was warned by the visiting team to keep quiet. He was removed from the stadium by local security after the Chinese team said he had ignored several of their warnings, the official said.

The NBA is facing intense criticism in mainland China since Houston Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey backed the anti-government protests in a now-deleted tweet over the weekend that said, “Fight for Freedom. Stand for Hong Kong.”

The tweet was quickly deleted and Morey apologized, but his comments drew backlash in China.

The NBA released a statement about Morey on Sunday that was translated into Chinese for the league’s verified account on Chinese social media platform Weibo. A CNBC translation of the post found differences between the English and Chinese version, which sparked criticism in the U.S. for its decidedly more apologetic tone.

The league’s commissioner, Adam Silver, apologized for offending the league’s Chinese fans, but he stood by Morey’s right to express his opinions, saying the league would “protect its employees’ freedom of speech.”

By Wednesday, nearly all of the NBA’s Chinese partners had publicly announced that they were ending or suspending their relationships with the league.

Earlier this week, Chinese tech giant Tencent, Luckin Coffee and Vivo announced the suspension of their relationships with the NBA.

CNBC’s Eunice Yoon, Amelia Lucas, Lilian Wu and Jabari Young contributed to this report.

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