A Philadelphia man said he and his wife were ejected from an NBA preseason game between the Philadelphia 76ers and a Chinese team after they shouted pro-Hong Kong messages from the stands.

Sam Wachs told ABC news affiliate WPVI-TV that he and his wife began shouting "Free Hong Kong," in reference to support for pro-democracy protests in the Chinese province of Hong Kong, during Tuesday's game at the Wells Fargo Center against the Guangzhou Loong Lions.


Wachs and his wife reportedly held up signs reading the same message, and says they were escorted out by arena security and not given an explanation for why their signs were taken.

"There's no foul language, no politics. I asked 'Why not?' They said, 'Don't give me a hard time,' " he told ABC 6.

"I think it's shameful, harsh reaction," he added.

The Wells Fargo Center did not immediately return a request for comment from The Hill Wednesday on the issue, but in statements released Wednesday the team and arena management argued that Wachs and his wife were warned not to cause further disruptions before being removed.

The NBA has been torn between Chinese and American fans for days following a tweet, now deleted, after Houston Rockets manager Daryl Morey expressed support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has attempted to cauterize the damage in a series of statements, apologizing for upsetting Chinese fans, declaring the league's support for Morey's free speech, and explaining that the NBA is not an appropriate body to adjudicate global politics.

Still, the league has taken heavy criticism both from the Chinese government and U.S. lawmakers, who have accused the NBA of putting profits over its support for free expression.