Hong Kong Protesters Make Presence Felt in Brooklyn, Issue Continues to Follow NBA

Justin Rimpi

An issue both the Brooklyn Nets, and the NBA, wish would go away has reared its ugly head once again with tip-off of the 2019-2020 NBA season only 48 hours away.

Fans in support of the Hong Kong protesters attended Friday's preseason game at Barclays Center between the defending champion Toronto Raptors and the Brooklyn Nets.

The protesters wore t-shirts that said: Stand With Hong Kong" and "Free Tibet." Both of these are hot-button issues, and are the main sticking points in the Hong Kong protests which began in March. 

Two other demonstrators were photographed wearing Winnie-the-Pooh costumes. The cartoon bear is banned in China due to the fact it is perceived as mocking Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The Hong Kong issue is a touchy subject for the Brooklyn Nets, and the league itself. The Nets visited China to play two preseason games against the Los Angeles Lakers two weeks ago. During their trip, the Nets had to contend with a divisive statement put out by their owner, Joseph Tsai, and a tweet from Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey that said the Hong Kong protesters should be supported in their quest for freedom.

The NBA was pummeled for their response to the tweet from Mowry, and how they decided to not condemn an oppressive Chinese regime as strongly as many believed they should have. Many people believed the NBA, and its players, sacrificed their principles in order to not jeopardize future earnings potential in the Asian nation.

The protesters on Friday made an issue come to light the NBA wishes that it could move past, and its billions of fans would forget.

Please note, no protestors were removed from the game

This incident on Friday drew more ire towards Tsai, who purchased the Nets this summer. The owner has had a rocky few months to begin his tenure leading the Nets organization. 

"The reality is that for individuals it our job to stand up for what we believe in," Nets star point guard Kyrie Irving said. "I understand that Hong Kong and China is dealing with their issues, but there's oppression and stuff going on in America for me to not be involved in the community issues here as well."

The sentiments uttered by Irving following his Barclays Center debut is yet another example of a star NBA player, or coach, choosing not to use their immense platform to stand up for the protesters in Hong Kong.

The Nets begin their 2019-2020 NBA season on Wednesday Oct. 23, 2019, at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Retraction: A previous version of this story included erroneous information about protesters being removed from the game. The Brooklyn Nets have vehemently denied that any protesters were removed.