UPDATED 7/17, 1:15 a.m. ET: ESPN's Tim MacMahon reports that Harden only wore the mask because it was long enough to cover his beard and was unaware of its "Blue Lives Matter" connections.
James Harden said wearing this mask -- associated with "Blue Lives Matter" -- was not meant to make a political statement. He said he wore it because it covers his beard and wasn't aware of the association. https://t.co/tz2EsAbs6h— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) July 17, 2020
Harden also reportedly said he "thought" the mask "looked cool,"Alykhan Bijani of The Athletic NBA reported.
James Harden: "It was something to cover my whole face, my beard...I thought it looked cool, that's it." #Rockets— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) July 17, 2020
See original story below.
James Harden is catching heat over the design of his coronavirus protective gear.
On Thursday night, the Houston Rockets star was spotted in Orlando rocking a face covering that appeared to feature a pro-law enforcement graphic. The piece showed a skull on top of a black-and-white American flag pattern with a single blue stripe running through it. Twitter users immediately blasted Harden after realizing the mask was covered with the "thin blue line" flag, a controversial symbol that's displayed in support for officers.
The thin blue line flag is widely associated with Blue Lives Matter, a dismissive response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Those who display the flag insist it is to honor the men and women in blue, as well as fallen officers; however, opponents say it has become a symbol of racism.
"It feels akin to a Confederate flag," Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of the BLM Los Angeles chapter, told Politico.
Harden's mask looks very similar to the "Thing Blue Patriot" bandana available at Hoorag's online store.
The product description reads in part:
Just when you think you’ve seen all we had to offer those who protect and serve. Remember those who have fallen with our new Thin Blue Patriot design. Featuring a rad new skull on top of a grungy looking Thin Blue Line American flag, this is everything you couldn’t have wanted in a kickin’ face mask.
Some Twitter users are convinced Harden was unaware of the mask's divisive symbol, as he's publicly expressed support for the BLM movement. But others were quick to criticize his choice, and used it as an opportunity to roast him. Even Trey Songz weighed on on the controversy.
Young Thug also commented on Harden's mask and the backlash he's received over it. The So Much Fun artist supported Harden, calling him his "brada" and saying he most likely hasn't seen all of the reactions because "he don’t have internet." Thugger continued, "but I hate when rappers get in n**gas biz like it’s can’t happen to em💥 buster let n**gas clear they shit up activist."
Just so u know James harden is my brada... 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...but I hate when rappers get in niggas biz like it’s can’t happen to em💥 buster let niggas clear they shit up activist— Young Thug ひ (@youngthug) July 17, 2020
Check out other reactions below.
Thursday marked Harden's first practice with Rockets since the NBA suspended its season over coronavirus concerns. The 30-year-old All-Star arrived at the Walt Disney World bubble earlier this week, about five days after his teammates had landed in Orlando. Harden told ESPN his travel delay was due to "some family issues," but reassured his fans he was ready to resume the season.
"I think the world knows, no matter what's going on, James Harden loves to hoop," Harden said. "He's a competitor, so today in practice we got after it. We played a couple of quarters and we pushed ourselves, and I'm doing a lot of trash talking as usual, just to get the guys motivated and keep pushing."