Philadelphia's Ben Simmons is in his second active season after being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft. (Aaron Gash)

As a native of Australia, Ben Simmons can be expected to pay more attention to that part of the world than most NBA stars, and so it was no surprise when the Philadelphia 76ers’ point guard expressed support recently for the victims of the terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand. “Pray for NZ,” Simmons wrote on sneakers he wore during a game Friday against the Sacramento Kings.

Simmons made a similar, if decidedly more provocative, gesture Tuesday in a game against the Charlotte Hornets, when he wore bright yellow shoes with a simple message: “Egg Boy.”

That was an approving reference to 17-year-old Will Connolly, who became a hero to many in Australia and elsewhere when he smashed an egg into the back of the head of a vehemently anti-Muslim Australian senator. That politician, Sen. Fraser Anning, had said Friday in regard to the dozens of Muslims killed at two Christchurch mosques that they “may have been the victims today; usually they are the perpetrators.”

“The real cause of bloodshed on New Zealand streets today,” Anning claimed in a statement, “is the immigration program which allowed Muslim fanatics to migrate to New Zealand in the first place.”

Anning was speaking Saturday to a group of reporters when Connolly egged him and got punched by the politician in return. While Connolly was released by police without charge, Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the “full force of the law should be applied” to Anning, while New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the senator’s comments a “disgrace.”

Another 76ers player and native of Australia, Jonah Bolden, also gave a shout-out to Connolly on his shoes. His pair of Nikes had the hashtag, “#LegendEggBoy,” on them.

Simmons previously called Connolly an “Australian legend” on one of the latter’s Instagram posts, before the page was taken down. The 22-year-old all-star, whom Philadelphia made the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA draft, has also weighed in on President Trump with far less complimentary remarks.

“I think he’s an idiot,” Simmons said of Trump in 2017. “If we were in Australia right now, a lot of people would call him a d---head. That’s how I personally feel.”

“I think he just brings more anger and hatred to the U.S., unneeded,” Simmons, whose father is American and who holds dual citizenship, added of the president at the time. “I love being here, I’m very appreciative of the job I’m in. I think he’s the wrong person to be in charge. He’s definitely not a leader."

A petition at Change.org to have Anning removed from Australia’s parliament had garnered over 1.37 million signatures by late Tuesday evening. “Within the bounds of Australian law, we request that he be pushed to resign from his position as Senator,” the petition states, “and if appropriate, be investigated by law enforcement agencies for supporting right wing terrorism.”

A GoFundMe page set up to raise money for Connolly’s legal fees and buy “more eggs,” with a listed goal of $50,000, has attracted over $71,000 in donations. According to the page, the teenager “plans to send a majority of the money to the victims of the Christchurch terrorist attack.”

Simmons topped all players Tuesday with 28 points, adding 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks and a steal as his 76ers got past the Hornets, 118-114. The 2018 NBA rookie of the year and a 2019 all-star, he is averaging 17.0 points, 9.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists this season, and he has helped lead Philadelphia to a 46-25 record and third place in the Eastern Conference.

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