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This NBA Fan Raised $43K In Less Than 48 Hours To Support Hong Kong Protesters At Season Opener in LA

A worker removes a promotional banner from a building for the NBA October 10 preseason game in China between the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers in Shanghai. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)
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An NBA fan has raised $43,000 in less than 48 hours to design and give away T-shirts in support of Hong Kong protesters at the Oct. 22 season opener at the Staples Center.

He launched his campaign on Reddit on Sunday, as the basketball league was coming under heavy fire in China for a pro-Hong Kong democracy tweet by the general manager of the Houston Rockets.

With shirts costing just under $3 each, the plan is to order 16,000-plus shirts, enough to outfit most spectators in the 20,000-person capacity arena.

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The NBA fan, who's going by the pseudonym "Sun Lared," does not want his identity revealed to the public, he said, in order to protect his and his family's privacy and avoid the wrath of Chinese netizens. He said he's never engaged in activism before, but felt compelled to do something after seeing China crack down on the NBA this week.

"I think it's important for us to stand for free speech alongside the people of Hong Kong and to stand against foreign attempts at forcing us into self-censorship," he said.

"Lared" said he lives in the Bay Area, and that he'd rather be giving out T-shirts for people to wear at a game closer to home. But he said he felt it was important to make a statement at the season opener between the L.A. Lakers and the L.A. Clippers.

"Now, I got to fly out to L.A. for this Lakers-Clippers game," he said, laughing. "It's a little bit more than I signed up for."

He said he doesn't plan on attending the game itself. He said all funds will go toward making the T-shirts. More than 100 people have DM'd him on Twitter, offering to help hand out the shirts.

A man walks past an advertisement for scheduled exhibition games in China between the LA Lakers and Brooklyn Nets at the NBA store in Beijing. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

Response to his GoFundMe page was so robust that by Tuesday night, he said, he had to disable new donations because he had already doubled his target of $20,000. More than 1,500 donations poured in from all over the world. He said two of the biggest sources of contributions were the Hong Kong expatriate community in the U.S. and Lakers fans.

"Lakers Nation has been great," he said. "The Lakers fan base has really spoken up about how important this is."

"Lared" said he himself is a Golden State Warriors fan. He also said he is Taiwanese American, in his 30s, and works in tech in the Bay Area. He said he has friends in both Hong Kong and China.

He said he was pushed into action after seeing Chinese backlash to the tweet by the Rockets' general manager Daryl Morey. The executive had posted an image on Twitter last Friday that read, "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong."

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By Sunday, the Houston Rockets were on a blacklist in China. CCTV 5, the sports channel of China's top state broadcaster, and Tencent Sports said it would no longer show Rockets games. And the Chinese Basketball Association cut off ties with the Rockets.

Chinese ire expanded to include NBA leadership after the league's Commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement Tuesday that failed, in the view of Chinese authorities, to properly condemn Morey for his tweet.

Silver said in his statement that "the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say."

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver at an Oct. 8 press conference. (Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP via Getty Images)

CCTV announced it would immediately stop airing the NBA's preseason games in China. The NBA's 11 official sponsors in China have also cut off ties with the league.

"Lared" said he was hopeful that the NBA would not cave to China's demands and allow its players and managers to speak freely.

"I understand it's billions of dollars at stake for the NBA," he said. "But that makes it all the more important to show that, no, this is not a situation where you can use market power as a way to get us to compromise our core values."

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