A Toronto activist group is planning to use next week’s Toronto Raptors season opener to raise awareness of the on-going situation in Hong Kong.
The Torontonian Hong-Kongers Action Group plans to hand out t-shirts with the slogan “The North Stand with Hong Kong” outside Scotiabank arena ahead of the November 22 season opener against New Orleans.
Organizers say a GoFundMe campaign raised more than $34,000 in just three days.
“We are able to make 7000 T shirts, which is 2000 more than our original target!” reads a post on the campaign’s GoFundMe. “We will cover 35% instead of 25% of the audience! That’s 1/3 of the arena!”
The Raptors and Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment have not endorsed the giveaway. It’s uncertain what ramifications, if any, fans who are given the shirts will face as they attempt to enter the arena.
The t-shirt campaign targeting the NBA stems from a tweet sent by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey last week expressing support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong. That sparked a fallout that completely overshadowed the league’s annual trip to China and has forced the NBA to walk a fine line between issuing an apology while saying its players and employees have the right to freedom of expression.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Chinese officials wanted Morey to be fired for his tweet – something the league emphatically dismissed.
“Obviously, we made clear that we were being asked to fire him by the Chinese government, by the parties we dealt with, government and business,” Silver said Thursday during an appearance at the Time 100 Health Summit in New York. “We said, ‘There’s no chance that’s happening. There’s no chance we’ll even discipline him.'”
Silver also said that the league is already feeling “substantial” financial losses because of the Chinese reaction to Morey’s deleted tweet.
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV did not air the two NBA preseason games between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets last week. Tencent, which has a $1.5 billion deal to stream NBA games in China over the next five years, has also stopped showing Rockets games but has not totally dropped all NBA content.
“The losses have already been substantial,” Silver said. “Our games are not back on the air in China, as we speak, and we’ll see what happens next.”
“I understand there is a point of view from some that we shouldn’t be in business at all in China, and I’d say from an intellectual standpoint, that’s fair – not getting into whether the tweet or the response to it,” Silver said.
The group says Canada is not immune when it comes to the fight against China, pointing out that two Canadians are still being detained following the arrest last December of Huwaei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver.
“We may have a new government by the time this NBA match happens, showing the Canadian government how much we stand with Hong Kong will definitely set a tone on the China policy for the new administration,” said the group.
Supporters of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong also had also planned to rally at the NBA preseason game between the LA Clippers and Dallas in Vancouver on Thursday night.
Files from The Associated Press were used in this report