The controversy over the NBA and China has followed the Brooklyn Nets back home to the Barclays Center.

Fans are not letting them forget it and let their voices be heard at the Nets-Raptors game on Friday.

Hundreds of fans attended the preseason game wearing black shirts saying “Stand with Hong Kong,” carrying signs, “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong” and calling on the NBA to be supportive. Some wore face masks as the protesters in Hong Kong do. At least two of the protesters wore Winnie the Pooh costumes as a way of mocking Chinese President Xi Jinping because he was supposedly upset that someone compared him physically to the cartoon character. There was also a smaller but quite vocal contingent calling to “Free Tibet” sitting in Section 1 diagonally across from the Nets’ bench.

Author Chen Pokong explained why the issue was so important, not just to folks from Hong Kong, but to Americans as well, saying that Chinese government incursion on speech must be stopped now.

From NY Post:

“We want to use our performance art to show our support for Hong Kong and the NBA,” one organizer, author Chen Pokong, 55, told The Post.

“They want to take away freedom of speech and now spread dictatorship to America,” he said of China.

“It seems like NBA people cannot choose their words. So if we don’t stop them, they not only will do bad things in China, they will do bad things in America.”

Hollywood producer Andrew Duncan, who was one of the organizers of the protest, blasted Lebron James. James had attacked Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey for a tweet to support Hong Kong. That was the tweet that kicked off the China controversy and demonstrated how much control that China seemed to have over the speech of American businesses and entertainment.

“Lebron needs to take time on this issue,” Duncan declared. “Why is he not supporting democracy? I think the King has made a royal mistake.”

The owner of the nets, Joe Tsai, who is one of the founders of Alibaba, has said that such issues of territorial integrity are “third rail” issues for China that are “non-negotiable.”

That may be true. But it’s their own treatment of the people of Hong Kong that turned a protest against denial of rights into a broader freedom movement. And it’s a “third rail” issue in the United States that our own government, much less foreign governments, don’t have a right to tell us what we can say or how we can think. And until the NBA figures that out, they’re going to hear more of it.