The Philadelphia 76ers said two fans were removed from the stands at Tuesday’s preseason game for “their continuing disruption of the fan experience,” but the fans say they were kicked out for showing support for Hong Kong.
The team and the Wells Fargo Center both released statements Wednesday saying they received multiple complaints about the two fans prior to their ejection.
“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 76ers said.
Sam Wachs and his wife held up signs that read “Free Hong Kong” and “Free HK” during the 76ers’ game against a Chinese team, the Guangzhou Loong Lions.
Wachs told NBC10 in Philadelphia that security guards confiscated the signs before ejecting the couple in the second quarter after Wachs shouted, “Free Hong Kong!”
A source close to the situation told ESPN’s Tim Bontemps that the Sixers were unaware of the incident until after the fans were ejected.
In its statement, the Wells Fargo Center said the fans were given three warnings prior to their removal.
The protests in Hong Kong were sparked by a proposed extradition law that would have allowed suspects to be sent to China to face trial. Activists saw that as a threat to the legal rights that Hong Kong residents have under the current “one country, two systems” framework.
Guangzhou will face the Wizards in Washington on Wednesday night.