Toronto Raptors Fans Raise $34,000 to Produce and Distribute 7,000 Pro-Hong Kong T-shirts Before Home Opener
Hong Kong's relationship with China had been a touchy subject long before Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted his support of Hong Kong residents’ fight for freedom. Morey’s involvement, however, has helped to make the matter a much-discussed topic in the NBA, and the depth of the issue has prompted reactions from executives and players, including a couple foot-in-the-mouth examples from LeBron James.
The star’s team, the Los Angeles Lakers, has a fan planning to distribute crowdfunded pro-Hong Kong T-shirts Tuesday when the California club opens its campaign, and that individual will have company in the call to remedy the escalating situation. That same night, supporters of the Toronto Raptors will also make their feelings known through a T-shirt that declares “The North Stand with Hong Kong.”
— Hong Kong World City 🖐🏻😷☔️ (@HKWORLDCITY) October 14, 2019
The discord in China has proven quite the quagmire for the NBA, but these fan-led T-shirt campaigns show that ordinary citizens could not care less about the league’s bottom dollar and are putting people above profits. With respect to the Raptors shirts, the team has zero involvement and has offered no endorsement, according to Yahoo. One could say that reaction is typical, as most teams and players are looking to steer clear of the Hong Kong-China dilemma.
As for the shirt, its “The North” mention refers to the “We The North” slogan that became so popular last season as the Raptors secured the first league title in franchise history. Fans raised $34,000 through a GoFundMe campaign, exceeding their goal and enabling them to produce 7,000 of the shirts. That's enough to cover around 35 percent of the expected attendance for the team’s tilt against the New Orleans Pelicans. While basketball lovers will see that night as historic because it will mark the debut of touted Pelicans’ rookie Zion Williamson, one wonders how much news coverage the Hong Kong shirts will receive and how anyone affiliated with the Raptors will respond to questions about the tops.
In a different era, protest songs served as a great means for voicing one’s displeasure with a government or movement. Fast-forward to the present, and one can see that T-shirts are gaining influence as resolution seekers. The NBA’s opening night will see two examples of this thanks to the games involving the Lakers and the Raptors, and since the fallout from Morey’s since-deleted tweet coincides with the start of a new NBA season, it will be worth tracking to see how many other contests will have subtexts involving people who are disgruntled with the league’s handling of the ever-intensifying conundrum that comes from considering human rights and commerce simultaneously.