James Harden’s choice of mask has come under heavy scrutiny.
Upon his delayed arrival to the NBA’s bubble in Orlando — he practiced with the team for the first time on Thursday — the Rockets posted a picture of the former MVP in a face covering, captioned “Mask Up.” The NBA shared the post on its own Twitter page.
The mask featured an American flag with a thin blue line – often used as a pro-police symbol. Critics of the symbol have argued that it represents white supremacy and opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement.
On top of the image, which is often used by the Blue Lives Matter movement, the mask pictured a Punisher skull, which has often been associated with far-right extremist groups. Adapted from the Marvel Comics character, Punisher’s creator has asked police to stop using the logo, saying that the character “represents a failure of the justice system.”
“This is certified clown s–t,” rapper Trey Songz tweeted. “I’ll say it for everybody who scared to. [F–k outta here].”
Numerous players throughout the league have been vocal in their support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the NBA agreed to paint “Black Lives Matter” on the courts in Orlando. The league has also allowed players to replace their names with approved social justice messages on their jerseys. Harden told ESPN that he was not sure whether he would take up the offer.
Harden did make a point to praise Houston’s protests following the killing of George Floyd, however.
“The way the city rallied, it was amazing,” Harden told reporters on Thursday. “I think the world saw it. How so many people could come together… Obviously it was for a tragic reason. The marching and everything we’re standing for is very powerful.”
Rapper Young Thug, a close friend of Harden’s, supported the eight-time All-Star, saying that he was likely ill-informed.
“Just so u know James Harden is my brada [sic],” the rapper tweeted. “Btw he don’t have internet so he obviously don’t know what’s right or wrong if he posted something that’s against US [sic].”
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