When the Houston Rockets posted a photo showing James Harden wearing a Thin Blue Lives mask, Twitter users reacted strongly. Many criticized the veteran player, but rapper Young Thug came to his defense. He said that Harden didn't know what the design meant because "he don't have internet."
"Just so u know James harden is my brada... btw he don't have internet so he obviously don't know what's right or wrong if he posted something that's against US...but I hate when rappers get in n—s biz like it's can't happen to em buster let n—s clear they s— up activist," Thug tweeted. Meek Mill also chimed in and defended Harden. He said that the Rockets player doesn't know what the mask means "because I don't." Mill also said that Harden "donates millions" in real life.
The Rockets player later responded to the outpouring of criticism. He spoke to reporters and explained that he didn't know what the mask meant. "Honestly, I wasn't trying to make a political statement," Harden said via ESPN. "I honestly wore it just because it covered my whole face and my beard. It's pretty simple."
Harden also addressed law enforcement questions, saying that "there's people who do their job at a high level and there's BS people in every profession." When asked about plans to put a social justice message on his jersey, Harden said that he will do so during the restart. However, he did not reveal what message he will use, only saying that it's in the process right now.
While Harden prompted comments about his mask on social media, NASCAR driver Kyle Weatherman has taken part in the Xfinity Series with his Back the Blue paint scheme. He first debuted the design during the Contender Boats 250 on June 14 and has since added names of officers that died in the line of duty. Weatherman explained before the first unveiling that he "wanted to express that most first responders are good people."
Mike Harmon Racing, the team behind Weatherman, has previously painted cars to honor active military and veterans, law enforcement officers and first responders. Additionally, several military nonprofits sponsor the team. Team owner Mike Harmon said that the current scheme resulted in families of officers killed in the line of duty, sending hundreds of emails in appreciation of the recognition.
"As far as this week's paint theme, there's thousands upon thousands of police officers in this country that serve us very well and they do not deserve to be disrespected and not be appreciated," said Harmon in a statement to CNN. "We at MHR want to send the message (that the deaths of police officers killed in the line of duty) wasn't in vain and that they're not forgotten and very much appreciated."