Houston Rockets superstar James Harden unknowingly created a controversy after a photo of the guard wearing a “Thing Blue Line” mask at the Orlando bubble went viral. Some fans took this as Harden’s way of supporting the “Blue Lives Matter” movement, but the Rockets guard admitted he only wore it because it covered his signature beard.
“It was just something that covered my whole beard,” Harden told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “I thought it looked cool. That was it.”
The flag is typically used to show support for police, but Harden noted he was not trying to make a political statement.
“James Harden said wearing this mask — associated with ‘Blue Lives Matter’ — was not meant to make a political statement,” MacMahon tweeted. “He said he wore it because it covers his beard and wasn’t aware of the association.”
Harden told ESPN he is considering ways to stand up for some of the social justice initiatives, including wearing a message on the back of his jersey. The guard also added his thoughts about police as a whole even though he did not realize the implications of the mask.
“I’m in the process of doing that right now,” Harden noted. “There’s people who do their job at a high level and there’s B.S. people in every profession.”
Here is a look at a photo of Harden’s mask which sparked the controversy.
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) July 17, 2020
Harden Cited ‘Family Issues’ as the Reason for His Delayed Arrival in Orlando
Harden did not initially arrive in Orlando with the Rockets team. After Russell Westbrook tested positive for COVID-19, some fans feared that Harden may have also contracted the virus, but the Rockets guard cited “family issues” for his delayed arrival.
“Houston Rockets star James Harden says his delay in getting to Orlando was due to ‘family issues,'” Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes tweeted.
Harden Has Begun Practicing With the Rockets After Being Quarantined
Harden had to serve a brief quarantine at Disney since he arrived after his Rockets teammates. He has begun practicing with the team and Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni noted that Harden looked to be in great shape.
“Today he went through practice as much as anybody else and his wind was as good as anybody else, so obviously he’s been working, anyway,” D’Antoni said, per The Athletic. “They ramped him up well before he got here.”
Harden is rumored to be in even better shape than he was when NBA play was halted in March as a response to COVID-19. Harden discussed his workout routine during a May interview with Insider.
“I have a treadmill,” Harden said. “I have jump ropes, I have weights, I have a pretty nice-sized backyard where I do a lot of sprints and things like that.”
The Rockets will resume their season against the Mavericks on July 31 at Disney. Houston is currently tied with the Thunder for the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference and are only 2.5 games back of the No. 3-seeded Nuggets.