While fans cheered the Miami Heat during yesterday's home game against the Houston Rockets, a group of demonstrators filled three rows inside the American Airlines Arena in support of Hong Kong protesters and their demands for democracy.
Dozens of members and supporters of the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), a Cuban exile organization, wore bright-yellow shirts reading, "Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong," and chanted "Let's go, Heat. Hong Kong free."
"Hong Kong is fighting against China and the efforts of the Communist Party," says Omar Lopez, CANF's director of human rights. "They’re demanding liberty and independence. That's what we want in Cuba. Our objectives are similar. We wanted to show support."
The unrest in Hong Kong has entered its fifth month. The mass protests began in June following the proposal of a now-withdrawn bill that would allow for extraditions to mainland China. Protesters feared the government in Beijing would use the bill to arrest political dissidents and erode Hong Kong's judicial freedom. Hong Kong was a British colony before it was transferred to China in 1997. Since then, NPR reported, China has sought greater control of Hong Kong.
Lopez says the demonstration at the Miami Heat game was also in response to the backlash against Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey after he tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters last month. The tweet, which read, "Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong," was deleted shortly after it was posted October 4. Morey later apologized.
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The tweet set off a flurry of events that ended with the Chinese Basketball Association announcing it would no longer air Rockets games. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the Chinese government asked him to fire Morey, something he has no intention of doing.
1/ I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) October 7, 2019
At yesterday's game, a cameraman noticed the group and approached them, Lopez says. When the demonstrators explained what they were about and asked to be shown on TV, the cameraman declined and walked away.
"I guess it's a sensitive subject," Lopez says.