Several fans were escorted out of NBA preseason games this week after holding up signs and voicing support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong as the league grapples with the backlash over its statements in support of China.
At least three fans at games in Philadelphia and Washington, DC, reported being removed from the arenas, while others said officials confiscated their "Free Hong Kong" signs.
Patrick Hedger, 29, of Arlington, Virginia, told BuzzFeed News security officials at the Washington Wizards game asked him to leave Capital One Arena Wednesday night after he held up a sign and yelled "Free Hong Kong" inside the arena.
Hedger, who lived temporarily in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory in 2002 and 2011, said the ongoing protests — sparked by a bill that would have allowed extraditions to China — have been "breaking my heart."
After the NBA issued a statement saying that comments by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey, who voiced support for the protesters in a now-deleted tweet, "deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China," Hedger said he felt compelled to act.
On Monday, he stood outside Capital One Arena carrying a sign denouncing the league.