Thursday night, James Harden stirred up controversy when he came into practice wearing a mask bearing a political statement.
The NBA and Houston Rockets’ official media accounts posted pictures of Harden donning a “Thin Blue Line” mask — one that represents support for the “Blue Lives Matter” group. For context, “Blue Lives Matter” was created in opposition of the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and holding law enforcement accountable for violence against black citizens. This, of course, is important in the midst of all the work the NBA and its staff and athletes are putting towards the Black Lives Matter movement.
Friday, James Harden told the press that the mask was no form of political statement.
James Harden on the mask: "It wasn't to make a political statement"— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) July 17, 2020
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
This clarification came, unfortunately, after social media had an entire night to dwell on the images and criticize Harden.
Many, like myself via the TDS Twitter account (sorry not sorry to any TDS Blue Lives Matter-ers), took to social media to give Harden the benefit of the doubt. One included his famous BFF Young Thug getting on Twitter provide insight on Harden that many of us do not have.
James Harden simply thought the mask was cool. Nothing else. Carry on.— #PocketRockets (@DreamShakeSBN) July 17, 2020
While these times are tough and testing, to say the least, it’s a reminder that it’s always important to contextualize perceived political stances, especially when it comes to symbolism. Harden has never been the most outspoken about his political beliefs and often shies away from controversy. For him to take the opposition’s side during the midst of a major civil rights movements is completely unlike him. It’s also a reminder that not everyone is as privy as you may be on the nuances of political symbolism, imagery, verbiage, etc.
In this situation, it was a lot more valuable to hear it directly from the source rather than chastise him or even celebrate him for catering towards your beliefs.