Is the North truly strong and free?

The Toronto Raptors are still NBA Champions.

It’s easy to forget. For one, no one thought it would ever happen. And two, this past summer has been the most outrageous off-season we have ever seen.

To recap as quickly as we can: Kawhi Leonard and Paul George teamed up in LA, but not the Lakers. Anthony Davis team’s up with LeBron in LA, yes the Lakers. Dwight Howard, Javale McGee, Rajon Rondo, and the ever-injured DeMarcus Cousins also join LeBron in LA. Russel Westbrook reunites with James Harden, this time in Houston. Kevin Durant takes his talents to the east, partnering with Kyrie Irving, in the New York borough of Brooklyn. Kemba Walker went to Boston, D’Angelo Russel goes to the Warriors, Jimmy Butler’s in Miami, Chris Paul’s stranded in OKC, and that’s just the top of the cake.

So you can reasonably see how a Raptors championship may have become a little overshadowed. However, on opening night October 22nd, the Raptors can reclaim their much-deserved spot-light as they unveil their championship rings and raise their first banner that won’t feel like a participation ribbon.

Along with their official rings, it’s reported that fans in attendance at the Scotiabank Arena (read Air Canada Centre) will also receive replica rings to celebrate the monumental accomplishment.

While that is a very pleasant surprise, and surely is exciting news for anyone holding a pair of opening night tickets, the replica rings may not be the most interesting item being handed out before Tuesday’s game.

A group by the name of Torontonian HongKongers Action Group plans to distribute around 7000 custom-made shirts that read “The North Stand With Hong Kong,” to fans who will be attending the season opener.

According to the GoFundMe campaign launched by the group, the shirt is to show the world that Raptors fans (i.e. Toronto and, in turn, Canada) share the same values as Hong Kong.

“Values such as the rule of law, individual freedoms and humans rights,” are explicitly named in the GoFundMe campaign. These democratic freedoms have been generally given to the citizens of Hong Kong, and the region has experienced substantial economic growth in its semi-autonomous state.

However, an extradition bill that was proposed back in February of 2019 was the final straw in what the citizens of Hong Kong felt was a push by the Chinese government to slowly take control of the semi-autonomous democratic region. After weeks of protests, the citizens continue to fight for their democratic freedom.

Back in North America, the passive protest is just one of many ways fans are voicing their dissatisfaction at how the NBA handled a tweet by Houston Rockets GM, Daryl Morey. A similar protest is planned in LA for the Laker’s home-opener versus their fellow Clippers. Last week, at a preseason game between the Raptors and Brooklyn Nets, 300 fans filled an entire section of the Barclays Centre, all wearing “Stand With Hong Kong” t-shirts.

With Adam Silver vehemently standing behind the league’s right to freedom of expression, it will be interesting to see how the league reacts to ongoing protests by fans, even as reports have surfaced of Chinese officials asking for the firing of Morey. Hopefully, LeBron learned from his last experience and withholds his comments on this issue.