DHARAMSALA, 19 Oct: Calling on the NBA to resist China’s influence and stand up for human rights and freedom, Tibetan activists staged a protest at Friday night’s preseason game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Toronto Raptors.
The activists have stated in their press release they are protesting to draw attention to the issue of China’s occupation of Tibet and to send a message to the NBA, along with Nets’ owner, Joseph Tsai, and LA Lakers’ player LeBron James, that Houston Rockets’ Manager, Dary Morey, was right to express his solidarity with democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
The Tibetan activists clad in a white T-shirt with a ‘Free Tibet’ lettering were also accompanied by Hong Kong democracy activists wearing tee shirts that read ‘Stand With Hong Kong’ at the Barclay Center in New York City. Together the protesters filled the stands as they protested side by side in clear defiance of the sports league’s recent handling of pro-Hong Kong activism, according to media reports.
The activists were seen holding signs that read “Tsai & LeBron: Morey was right, NBA: Stand for freedom, ” “Human Rights Matter! Here + There!” “NBA Stand for Freedom” while shouting slogans such as freedom in Tibet, Hong Kong and East Turkestan (Chinese: Xinjiang).
“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 Tibet Action Institute who was at the protest was quoted as saying in the press release.
“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 Joseph Tsai have chosen to prioritize profits over people’s rights,” Dorjee added.
Sonamtso, Campaigns and Communications Director at Students for a Free Tibet who was also at the protest has stated that “Joseph Tsai and LeBron James are on the wrong side of history on this issue.”
“The NBA, as well as corporations and people everywhere, should resist the oppressive influence of the Chinese government and stand with Tibetans, Uyghurs, Hong Kongers, and also citizens of China who are putting their lives on the line to fight for the very same freedoms we enjoy here in the U.S.,” Sonamtso added
The activists have made it clear that they now plan to protests at NBA games across the US and Canada.
Though The NBA started facing backlash from the Chinese government and its netizens following Houston Daryl Morey’s now-deleted tweet in support of the Hong Kong protest movement, the league was widely criticised by the public and lawmakers alike in the US over its initial statement.
Following its initial statement, the league has gone on the offensive and Silver has said that NBA supports free speech which has further angered China’s net users.
Meanwhile, NBA superstar Lebron James became the poster of bad boy over his comments that called Morey ‘uneducated.’
“Yes, we all do have freedom of speech, but at times there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you’re not thinking about others and you’re only thinking about yourself, I don’t want to get into a word or sentence feud with Daryl, with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand and he spoke,” James said.
The four-time NBA MVP is idolised by many basketball fans, Kunchok, a Tibetan who described himself as a great admirer and a fan of the NBA superstar and his team the Los Angeles Lakers expressed disappointment over his icon’s remarks and said, “all the charity work LeBron has done during his career went down the drain after his comments that sided with the Chinese government. his remarks greatly condescend the stand he took until now for justice and equality.”
Though the Chinese government and netizens alike have called on the NBA to sack Morey, the league has declined their request.
While James’ popularity has taken a beating at home, he can now only hope that ‘Space Jam 2,’ an upcoming 2021 American live-action/animated sports comedy film featuring him will break every record at the Chinese box office.