James Harden explains why he wore controversial 'Blue Lives Matter' mask

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(Getty Images)

Rockets star James Harden started trending on Twitter Thursday night, and it wasn't because he entered the NBA bubble.

Harden was seen wearing a mask that featured the United States flag with a blue line and a Punisher skull on top. The blue line is labeled as the "thin blue line" and is used as a sign of support for the Blue Lives Matter movement. The blue line refers to the blue color of uniforms worn by many police departments.

The Punisher skull has also become a popular symbol within the same movement. 

MORE: A list of players opting out of 2020 NBA season

The mask Harden was wearing is called "Blue Line Patriot" and the company that makes it says in the description, "Just when you think you’ve seen all we had to offer those who protect and serve. Remember those who have fallen with our new Thin Blue Patriot design."

Many saw Harden wearing this mask as support for the Blue Lives Matter movement at a time when police brutality has been the subject of protests around the world, and he was heavily criticized as a result.

"This certified clown s—," rapper Trey Songz tweeted about Harden. "I’ll say it for everybody who scared to. FOH."

Harden addressed the controversy in a Zoom call with reporters Friday. The Rockets star said the mask was not meant as a political statement, and that he only wore it because it's a long mask that covers his beard.

Harden also spoke with reporters Thursday and said he was in favor of the nationwide protests that followed George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police.

The Rockets begin their season restart July 31 in a game against the Mavericks.

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