Tibet and Hong Kong Activists Demonstrate at Raptors, Nets NBA Game

Tibet and Hong Kong Protest - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of the organizers

Videos on social media showed the protestors carrying signs that read "Human Rights Matter! Here + There!" and "NBA Stand for Freedom."

A group of Tibet and Hong Kong activists demonstrated side-by-side at Friday night's NBA game between the Toronto Raptors and the Brooklyn Nets in clear protest of the sports league's recent handling of pro-Hong Kong activism.

Videos on social media showed the protestors carrying signs that read "Human Rights Matter! Here + There!" and "NBA Stand for Freedom" while wearing T-shirts that read "Free Tibet" and "Stand With Hong Kong" at Barclay Center in New York City. A representative for the group reported that the protestors continued chanting until security guided them out of the venue and that they will continue to appear at NBA games to come.

The protest responded to the NBA's recent statements about Hong Kong after Houston Rockets manager Daryl Morey tweeted a message of support for anti-government Hong Kong protestors earlier this month. Morey's message was quickly followed by statements from Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, which said the statement did not speak for the team, and the NBA, which called it "regrettable" that the tweet may have offended some in China. The Chinese Basketball Association ended its relationship with the Rockets after the tweet, while a China state broadcaster and Tencent Sports said they would suspend airing Rockets games.

The NBA, meanwhile, has come under harsh criticism for its statements from social media and China critics, who say the league is seeking to preserve its relationship with China because they do not want to lose its business while Hong Kong is seeking to preserve its autonomy.

"It is crucial people of conscience around the world speak up for Hong Kongers who are battling for their freedom right now, and also for the people of Tibet, East Turkestan (Xinjiang) and China itself, where Chinese authorities are carrying out an unprecedented human rights crackdown” Tenzin Dorjee, senior researcher and strategist at the Tibet Action Institute, said in a statement about the Raptors-Nets protest. “Daryl Morey was right to speak out, and while we applaud the NBA for ultimately supporting his right to free speech, we are deeply disturbed that LeBron James and [Nets owner] Joseph Tsai have chosen to prioritize profits over people’s rights."

Eight hundred million viewers watched NBA games on multiple platforms in China last year, while earlier this year the league inked a reported $1.5 billion deal with Tencent.