NBA blasted after viral video shows ban on custom ‘FREE HONG KONG’ jerseys but no ban on other contentious messages

The NBA is once again being accused of bowing to China, after a viral video revealed its website does not allow custom jerseys with the phrase “Free Hong Kong,” but has no problem with plenty of other disruptive messages.

“The NBA bans you, the fan, from putting #freehongkong on customized league jerseys even as they allow players to wear customized jerseys,” journalist Clay Travis tweeted on Sunday.

Travis Included a video actually showing the merchandising section of the website rejecting the phrase. Numerous people took to social media to give other firsthand accounts of the site not allowing the message.  

“We are unable to customize this item with the text you have entered. Please try a different entry,” is the warning one receives after trying to enter “free Hong Kong” into the ‘name’ section of the store. 

The basketball league has generated controversy over the years, due to its deference to China and  silencing employees from speaking out about the anti-government protests that have raged in Hong Kong. What is surprising in this instance is the range of messages that are allowed on the custom jerseys.

The warning does not appear if you type in “Heil Hitler,” for example. Or “Schutzstaffel,” the full name of the notorious SS that worked under Adolf Hitler during World War II. Other racist or Nazi phrases like “KKK” and “white power” are flagged. 

©  store.nba.com
©  store.nba.com

The uncensored version of “F**k police” is also okay. Political messages like “defund police” do not raise any flags with the system. Strangely enough, “Free Tibet” is allowed. This likely means that there is no general ban in place for offensive or political statements, but that specific phrases are flagged by the system, “Free Hong Kong” being one of them.

Many have taken to social media to express their outrage with the league.

The NBA recently allowed players to wear custom jerseys with a narrow range of approved social justice and political messages. Kyle Korver, who plays for the Milwaukee Bucks, recently decided to emblazon “black lives matter” onto his. Stephen Curry also gifted former President Barack Obama with his own custom jersey in 2016. 

Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) wrote an open letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver about player jerseys this week, accusing the league of censorship for only allowing certain political messages.

Accusations of the league censoring in favor of China first gained traction when Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for the Hong Kong protests, but quickly deleted it in October of last year. Morey was even criticized by star player LeBron James for being “misinformed” about the situation in Hong Kong, leading James to be accused by many –  including Hong Kong residents – of hypocrisy and support for communism.

James, like many other players, have meanwhile felt free to get politically involved in US issues, criticizing President Donald Trump and showing solidarity with the protests over police brutality and racial inequality continuing across the country since the May 25 death of George Floyd.

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