PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia 76ers and Wells Fargo Center are responding after a fan said he and his wife were kicked out of the exhibition game against a Chinese team for supporting Hong Kong. Sam Wachs, 33, says he and and wife were ejected by Wells Fargo Center security after he brought in several pro-Hong Kong signs and yelled “Free Hong Kong.”
Wachs was sitting in section 124 — right behind the Guangzhou Loong Lions bench — when he and his wife held up two signs: one reading “Free Hong Kong” and the other reading “Free HK.”
Wachs, a Philly resident who lived in Hong Kong for two years, says he was also wearing a “Free Hong Kong” T-shirt.
Shortly after tip-off, Wachs says security members saw the signs and told him “no politics.” When Wachs questioned, he says a security guard said not to give him a hard time and took away the signs.
Roughly midway through the second quarter, Wachs says he stood up and yelled “Free Hong Kong.” He says he was then ejected from the game.
The 76ers told CBS3 in a statement that there were multiple complaints from fans about Wachs and his wife.
“The Wells Fargo Center’s event staff is responsible for the security and comfort of all guests at arena events, including 76ers games. At last evening’s game, following multiple complaints from guests and verbal confrontations with others in attendance, two individuals were warned by Wells Fargo Center staff about their continuing disruption of the fan experience. Ultimately, the decision was made by Wells Fargo Center personnel to remove the guests from the premises, which was accomplished without incident,” the Sixers said.
The Wells Fargo Center said that the two were escorted out of the arena after three separate warnings.
“During the second quarter of last night’s 76ers game, Wells Fargo Center security responded to a situation that was disrupting the live event experience for our guests. After three separate warnings, the two individuals were escorted out of the arena without incident. The security team employed respectful and standard operating procedures,” the Wells Fargo Center said in a statement.
The NBA has been embroiled in controversy over its handling of Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet in support of Hong Kong as the region has been embroiled in pro-democracy clashes with China for months.
All around China, stores that sell NBA merchandise were removing Rockets-related apparel from shelves and many murals featuring the Rockets — even ones with Yao Ming, the Chinese great who played for Houston during his NBA career — were being painted over.
After Morey’s tweet was deleted, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said Morey does not speak for the organization. Joe Tsai, who recently completed his purchase of the Nets and is a co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has said the damage to the NBA’s relationship with China “will take a long time to repair.”
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)