‘MASK UP’: Houston Rockets, NBA Promote Pic Of James Harden Wearing Pro-Police Face Covering

James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets directs his teammates in the first quarter against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 23, 2019 in New York City.
Elsa/Getty Images

The NBA and the Houston Rockets promoted a photograph on Thursday that featured star player James Harden wearing a face covering that featured a pro-police “Thin Blue Line” on an American flag with a skull.

“The black space above the blue line represents society, order, and peace, while the black below, crime, anarchy, and chaos,” Thin Blue Line USA says. “The Thin Blue Line running between them, ‘law enforcement,’ separates the two, keeping crime separated from society.”

The Houston Rockets tweeted out an image of Harden, writing, “Mask Up.”

The NBA also tweeted out an image of Harden wearing the face covering, writing, “The Masked Beard!”

The image from the NBA account provided a more clear view of the mask, which appears to be a “Thin Blue Line Skull” face covering made by Salt Armour Co.

The Washington Post reported, “Neither the Rockets nor the NBA, which also shared an image of Harden’s mask to their Twitter account’s more than 30 million followers, responded late on Thursday to questions about where Harden got the mask or whether it was meant as a political statement.”

The skull image on the face covering is likely a knock off from Marvel’s “The Punisher,” which is reportedly not happy that the image is heavily embraced by those in law enforcement and the military.

The skull from The Punisher is so popular among law enforcement that many refuse to remove decals from their gear.

After residents in Solvay, New York, complained about the decals on the department’s police cars, Chief Allen Wood and Lt. Derek Osbeck responded in a statement, saying, “The Punisher symbol on the patrol vehicles of the Solvay Police Department, while similar to the symbol featured in Marvel comics, is our way of showing our citizens that we will stand between good and evil.”

Last October, Rocket’s General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted out support for Hong Kong which sparked an immediate backlash from the Chinese Communist Party.

Morey tweeted out a graphic that stated: “Fight For Freedom Stand With Hong Kong”

Following Morey’s support for democracy, NBA chief communications officer Mike Bass released the following statement:

We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable. While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them. We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.

Morey also apologized for standing up for freedom, tweeting: “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. I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention. My tweets are my own and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA.”

Tilman Fertitta, owner of the Houston Rockets, said in a tweet that Morey’s beliefs did “NOT speak” for the team’s values, writing: “Listen…. @dmorey does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets. Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the @NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization.”

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