While there was excitement to see the NBA’s best scorer back on a basketball court doing what he does best, there was also some criticism being floated at James Harden.
Many fans were not too happy to see Harden rocking a mask with what seemed to be a “Thin Blue Line” design in a photo the Houston Rockets shared with the caption “Mask Up.”
While telling people to wear masks has become a hot button issue in the United States, it was the imagery on the face-covering that is catching people’s ire. “Thin Blue Line” is a pro-police symbol, but many have also claimed it could be tied to white supremacy and is a direct response to the Black Lives Matter movement. It also features the “punisher skull,” which has also been affiliated with far-right hate groups.
Harden has since responded to the backlash saying that he didn’t know what the mask represented and he wore it because it covered his entire beard.
“It was just something that covered my whole beard. I thought it looked cool. That was it,” he told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, adding that he plans on supporting the Black Lives Matter movement while finishing up the season and has considered changing the name on his jersey.
Still, check out how NBA Twitter reacted to the mask below.
Photo: Icon Sportswire / Getty