JAMES Harden was spotted on Thursday night wearing a face mask for Blue Lives Matter – the movement created to support police officers in the US.
Fans took to Twitter to complain about the mask, citing police responsibility for the brutal deaths of George Floyd and others.
Here is more about the Houston Rockets basketball player and the Blue Lives Matter movement.
Who is James Harden and what mask was he wearing?
James Harden, 30, plays for the NBA's Houston Rockets.
He was selected with the third overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
He was named NBA Sixth Man of the Year with the Thunder in 2012 and helped the team reach the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Miami Heat in five games.
He was named the Most Valuable Player in the NBA in 2018 and is an eight-time NBA all-star.
Harden is also a two-time member of the US national basketball team, winning gold medals at the 2012 Summer Olympics and 2014 FIBA World Cup.
Harden has also been spotted at strip clubs, spending more than $1 million in one night.
On Thursday, photos of him taken by the Houston Rockets’ photographer surfaced on Twitter of him sporting a Blue Lives Matter face mask.
However, ESPN's Tim MacMahon reported that Harden only wore the mask because it was long enough to cover his beard and was unaware of its "Blue Lives Matter" connections.
What does the ‘thin blue line’ typically represent?
The mask 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 black and the blue represent cop’s' "line of duty" and the “thin blue line" that keeps society from erupting into chaos.
Blue Lives Matter is known to be a counter 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.
The flag is said to have some racist connotations after being spotted alongside Confederate flags at the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, reported NPR.
"It feels akin to a Confederate flag," Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Los Angeles chapter, told Politico.
The president of Thin Blue Line USA, which is an online apparel store that sells Blue Lives Matter merchandise, says that the blue flag does not represent hatred.
“The flag has no association with racism, hatred, bigotry,” he said.
“It’s a flag to show support for law enforcement – no politics involved.”
Harden also reportedly said he "thought" the mask "looked cool," Alykhan Bijani of The Athletic NBA reported.
Is Harden a supporter of Black Lives Matter?
While Harden has not publicly endorsed the movement, he did mention in a press conference that he felt proud of those who rallied.
“The way the city rallied was amazing. I think the world saw so many people come together so close.
“Obviously it was for a tragic reason, but you know, the march and everything we’re standing for was very powerful,” he concluded.
What does ‘Blue Lives Matter’ mean?
Blue Lives Matter was founded in 2014 by NYPD officers Joseph Imperatrice, Christopher Brinkley, and Carlos Delgado.
They started it after Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were shot and killed by Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley in Brooklyn.
Brinsley reportedly did it to avenge the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown in police custody.
The non-profit organization is made up of active and retired law enforcement officers, who believe there is a "war on cops."
Members have said killing a police officer should be considered a hate crime and believe cops are discriminated against.
The movement also came in the wake of NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality.
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