James Harden joined his Houston Rockets teammates in the NBA bubble on Thursday.
The All-NBA guard arrived at Disney World a few days after most of his teammates, citing “family issues” for his delayed arrival.
When he arrived he was wearing this.
Surprising choice for the NBA bubble
That’s a Blue Lives Matter mask, which. Well. ... It’s a surprising choice of attire for the NBA bubble.
The mask drew the ire of social media Thursday night, with many criticizing Harden’s apparent stance while the NBA bubble makes Black Lives Matter a central theme. “Black Lives Matter” will be emblazoned on basketball courts, and players will have the option of wearing social justice messages on their uniforms.
Meanwhile, Blue Lives Matter is a counter movement to Black Lives Matter. Similar to people proclaiming “all lives matter,” the statement is commonly made to undercut Black Lives Matter, particularly in the effort to stop police brutality and hold its perpetrators accountable.
Harden explained the mask choice while talking with reporters on Friday.
James Harden on mask he wore yesterday: “I wasn’t trying to make a political statement..I wore it b/c it covered my whole face,my beard. .As I clearly talked about yesterday,me finding a way,whether it’s my jersey name or another way,to show my support for the Black Lives Matter” pic.twitter.com/2BMyH51peM
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) July 17, 2020
“I wasn't trying to make a political statement,” Harden said. “I honestly wore it because it covered my whole face and my beard. ...
“I thought it looked cool. That’s it.”
So he didn’t realize what the mask represented when he put it on — which sounds unlikely in the summer of 2020, especially in a league full of players actively supporting Black Lives Matter.
Then again, this is a professional athlete we’re talking about — one at the top of his game. Athletes at Harden’s level are notorious for their hyper focus on their games and shutting other things out.
It’s not implausible to think that Harden’s kept his head down and is unaware of the symbolism of his mask. Not everyone spends hours a day staring at social media, after all. Judging by the infrequency of his Twitter posts, Harden certainly doesn’t.
Considering all of that, Harden’s explanation Friday makes a lot more sense than him actively supporting Blue Lives Matter in the NBA bubble.
As for the Rockets social media staffer who posted the image on Twitter? Probably should’ve caught that.
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