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The China protests come to the Barclays Center; Kyrie Irving offers understanding if not support

The issue of the NBA and China--with outrage toward a Hong Kong-supporting tweet from the Rockets' GM, and cancellation of ancillary events and broadcasts connected to NBA games in China--has not died down completely, though the teams are now stateside.

Last night, as the New York Post reported, protesters critical of China made themselves visible during the Brooklyn Nets' pre-season game with the Toronto Raptors at the Barclays Center:
Sitting in Section 1, diagonal from the Nets’ bench, nine fans in the front row donned white shirts with black lettering saying Free Tibet.
A far greater number of fans – some 100 China protesters filling about eight rows of seats – wore black shirts that read Stand With Hong Kong. 
...The protesters, most of whom were Hong Kong natives, were peaceful, and none of them were ejected or banned from Barclays Center. It bears watching whether that remains the case, considering the building’s ownership.
That's notable, given that it's certainly possible that other political protestors might be ejected. (Heck, Barclays Center security guards have told my walking tours to leave the arena plaza, and no one's wearing t-shirts or protesting.)

Credit, for now, Taiwanese-Canadian Joe Tsai, owner of the team and the Barclays Center operating company (not the arena itself!), for not pushing too hard, especially since, as co-founder of Alibaba, he owes his fortune to China and wrote a much-criticized Facebook post arguing that China's entire population stands united against the Hong Kong resistance.

That said, arena staff confiscated "Stand for Freedom" banners brought by "Free Tibet" protestors, enforcing a longstanding rule.

Kyrie Irving speaks

Interviewed by the New York Post, Nets' star Kyrie Irving said "I stand for four things: inner peace, freedom, equality and world peace, man."

And he took a pass on making a specific comment, but didn't criticize protestors:
“When you think about communities across the world, a lot of people would stand for world peace,” Irving said. “Government gets involved, it impacts different communities in different ways. And the reality is as individuals it’s our job to stand up for what we believe in. Now, I understand Hong Kong and China are dealing with their issues, respectively. But there’s enough oppression and stuff going on in America for me not to be involved in the community issues here as well.
“That’s one of those four pillars that goes in terms of the black community, colored people here in America. We’re fighting for everyday freedoms. So when I think about Hong Kong and China, the people are in an uproar; and for us as Americans to comment on it, African Americans or American Indians to comment on that, you’re connected nonetheless, especially when it impacts freedoms or world peace. So for me as an individual I stand up for those four pillars; and when they’re being conflicted I can understand why protestors come to the games.”
That's not surprising and, in many ways, we can't hold it against basketball players--who are celebrities based on their skill in a game--for not having a considered political opinion about something which is generally ignored by most Americans.

At least he didn't defend China. That said, at some point world issues intersect closely enough with domestic ones that outspoken athletes take a stand. Consider Muhammad Ali and Vietnam. Or the Australian sprinter that supported the American protestors in the 1968 Olympics.

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