Hong Kong Protesters Expected To Fill NBA Arenas
The NBA's showdown with China over free speech has "created an unanticipated opening-week problem for the league: the arrival of Hong Kong protesters who plan to use the league's arenas and broadcasts as a platform for their message," according to Laine Higgins of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. A source said that the league "respects peaceful demonstrations and does not believe they will be a disruptive issue during NBA games this season." However, protests have already "occurred at several preseason games, and supporters of the democracy movement in Hong Kong have organized large-scale demonstrations for the opening-night games" in Toronto and L.A. The protesters are "gambling that the NBA will not attempt to thwart" T-shirt giveaways outside both games tonight, which are a "clever way of getting around the league's policy that bans political signage" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/22). In L.A., Mirjam Swanson notes activists "plan to hand out free T-shirts displaying support for the Hong Kong protests" ahead of tonight's Lakers-Clippers matchup. A GoFundMe fundraiser online -- "Give Away Hong Kong T-Shirts, NBA Opening Night" -- set up Oct. 7 by an NBA fan in Northern California "raised nearly $42,994" in less than two days. That amount will "pay for more than 10,000 shirts" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 10/22).
PLAN FOR PROTESTS: In Toronto, Mike Ganter notes because of the "possibility of supporters of the democracy movement in Hong Kong making their presence felt, fans are asked to allow a little more time to get into" Scotiabank Arena tonight for the Raptors home opener against the Pelicans. Half of an entire section was "filled with the protesters at the Barclays Center" on Friday in the Raptors' final preseason game. The demand for tickets in Toronto will "make that kind of demonstration much tougher, but the protesters don't have to be inside to make their statement" (TORONTO SUN, 10/22). Mimi Lee, the organizer of the Torontonian HongKongers Action Group, writes an op/ed for the WASHINGTON POST, noting, "I plan to join about 100 volunteers in giving Toronto Raptors fans a chance to show their support for those seeking democratic rights in Hong Kong." Lee, who was born in Hong Kong, writes, "If you happen to be in Toronto or Los Angeles on Tuesday and are going to an NBA game, please grab a T-shirt on your way in and put it on, exercising the free speech that is denied to the people of Hong Kong" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/22).
SETTING A STANDARD: NBA Exec VP & Chief Security Dir Jerome Pickett said that the league was "banning fans from expressing 'anything that is non-basketball-related.'" In N.Y., Dennis Young cites a source as saying that the fan behavior policy was "modified back in August, before the Hong Kong controversy, and that 'non-basketball-related' refers just to hate speech, not political speech." But the "extent to which political speech will be tolerated has yet to be tested" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/22).