NBA bubble bursts: Star player feels backlash for pro-police face mask

Deliver the wrong message with a face mask, suffer the wrath of the angry mob. Even if the message is unintentional, there is no escaping the immediate reaction of scorn that offended social justice warriors will show.


James Harden, an NBA star player for the Houston Rockets, wore a face mask that fully covered his nose, mouth, and full beard as he reported to his first day of practice with the Rockets at the NBA’s Walt Disney World campus. The Houston Rockets twitter account posted a picture of Harden wearing the mask with the message “Mask Up”, a reminder for people to do so. The reaction was swift when viewers noticed the pattern on the mask.

The subject of face masks has become a political one and Harden’s mask quickly became a part of the conversation. He was criticized for wearing a blue mask that featured a thin blue line, assumed to be a pro-police design, and a Punisher skull. The thin blue line is thought to be an anti-Black Lives Matter message and the Punisher skull is associated with “far-right groups.” Apparently, if a person supports the police, there must be white supremacy involved.

The NBA, which has over 30 million followers, shared the Twitter post from the Rockets. The question was – did Harden wear this particular face mask as a political statement? He says no. It was an unintentional choice that was made because the mask fully covered his beard comfortably and he liked the head covering part, too.

Photographs of Harden wearing the mask, a neck gaiter pulled over his face, published by the Rockets’ and NBA’s social media accounts, provoked strong reactions from people on both sides of the issue.

“Honestly, I wasn’t trying to make a political statement,” Harden said before the Rockets’ practice Friday. “I honestly wore it just because it covered my whole face and my beard. It’s pretty simple.”


Earlier Thursday, Harden said he was still trying to decide on what message if any, his team jersey would state, as the league is allowing personal political messages on jerseys this year. And, he praised Houston’s support for George Floyd.

The vast majority of NBA players have strongly supported the Black Lives Matter movement. The NBA agreed to paint “Black Lives Matter” on the courts at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, where the league will play, and will allow players to wear social justice messages in place of their names on their jerseys.

Unlike his fellow NBA superstar LeBron James, Harden has never been particularly vocal about politics. Asked earlier Thursday whether he would choose a message to wear on his jersey, Harden demurred.

“I’m working on it right now,” he told ESPN’s Marc J. Spears. “I’m in the process of figuring out if I’m going to put a message on my back and other ways to deliver my (social justice) message.”

While Harden was being criticized for the appearance of supporting police (the horror), others spoke up for him, saying he probably really didn’t realize the message he was sending.

Among those who slammed Harden for wearing the mask were musician Trey Songz, who called Harden’s choice of a mask “certified clown s—,” tweeting that “I’ll say it for everybody who scared to.”

But rapper Young Thug, a friend of Harden’s, stuck up for the former MVP by suggesting he didn’t know what the thin blue line imagery meant, noting in a tweet that Harden doesn’t “have internet so he obviously don’t know what’s right or wrong if he posted something that’s against US.”


Even those defending Harden send a troubling message. The rapper assumes if a person “doesn’t have internet” then that person doesn’t know right from wrong. And, if someone does support the police, that person is against “US”, other black people. How sick is all of that? This is the problem, though. Even an NBA player who isn’t particularly inclined to speak about politics must be shut down if he does something against the groupthink of his peers.

In the case of this blue face mask, I think Harden very likely didn’t realize what he was wearing. And it shows how far the NBA has gone to appease the Black Lives Matter movement. No one is allowed to be supportive of police, but supporting a movement founded by Marxists is fine. A movement that calls for destroying our way of life and creating violence and civil unrest in cities across the country is to be supported over the men and women trying to protect the public. It’s a horrible message and does nothing to bring people together. The truth is, the BLM movement doesn’t want to bring people together and promote peaceful understanding. That’s a lie. They want to blow things up (figuratively and literally) and usher in their idea of utopia.

Meanwhile, the NBA supports Communist China and enriches itself with that support. Individual players do, too, with endorsement deals in China. Harden apologized to the Chinese government when the NBA tweeted out support for Hong Kong protesters earlier this year, as they demonstrated for freedom. Harden isn’t as innocent as his friends would have you believe. Clearly, the NBA puts profits over garnering support from pro-police, anti-Communist white people. At least that is the message the NBA is sending. Allowing players to wear social justice messages on their jerseys during games is a really bad idea. No one is tuning in to a game to hear the political thoughts from players, they are there to watch a game.


Speaking of NBA players and face masks, I’ll end with this tidbit. While Harden wore his blue mask because he liked it and thought it looked cool, the Lakers’ Dwight Howard was the victim of a snitch. The NBA has a snitch line for players to tattle on each other when one doesn’t wear a face mask, as the NBA requires. Someone turned Howard in for not wearing a mask.

“Somebody told on me,” Howard said after being warned for not wearing a face mask while in the NBA campus bubble in Orlando, Fla.

While the hotline was set up for the protection of the players and everyone involved in the season restart, players don’t seem too happy with what they’re calling the “snitch hotline.”

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who was the first NBA player to test positive for COVID-19, called the mesure “petty.”

“I don’t know if someone’s gonna use it, but I think it’s sort of petty,” he said according to ESPN. “I think it’s more about respecting each other and all do it as a small community.”

Several players have already gotten into trouble for breaking bubble protocol, including Sacramento Kings forward Richaun Holmes, who left the campus to pick up a food delivery.

A snitch line sure smacks of authoritarianism, doesn’t it?

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