Boston Celtics games have been removed from Chinese media after center Enes Kanter tweeted a two-minute video of himself expressing support for Tibet and wearing shoes with the phrase “Free Tibet” in Wednesday night’s game. against the New York Knicks.
“I am here to add my voice and talk about what is happening in Tibet. Under the brutal Chinese government, the fundamental rights and freedoms of the Tibetan people are non-existent,” Kanter said in the video posted Wednesday on Twitter and Instagram. . He called Chinese President Xi Jinping a “brutal dictator” in the text when he posted the video and wore a shirt featuring the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet.
He followed that up by wearing shoes designed by Badiucao, a Chinese-born, Australia-based designer and dissident artist.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Thursday said Kanter was “trying to get attention” and his comments “were not worth refuting.”
“We will never accept these attacks to discredit the development and progress of Tibet,” the spokesperson said.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Washington, DC-based office released a statement to ESPN later that day that said in part, “We are grateful to NBA player Enes Kantor for speaking out for Tibet. In a two-minute video message he summed up the existential threat Tibetans face under the Communist Chinese regime Every word he said is true.
The statement also noted that Kanter’s “courageous act” of advocating for Tibet’s independence was “at risk of his personal life and career.”
Kanter posted another video online on Friday calling on the Chinese government to “free the Uyghur people.” Uyghurs are an ethnic group in northwestern China. On Thursday, 43 countries signed a United Nations declaration expressing concern to China over its treatment of Uyghurs.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that Celtics games have been pulled from Tencent, the Chinese company that broadcasts NBA games (ESPN and Tencent have a content sharing partnership, and Tencent is an NBA rights partner). Previous reruns are no longer available and upcoming games are not set to be viewed.
Games involving the Philadelphia 76ers are also not being broadcast in China, two years after Daryl Morey, then manager of the Houston Rockets and now president of basketball operations for the Sixers, tweeted his support for the democracy movement. in Hong Kong, under Chinese control, ahead of the NBA preseason games. in the countryside. Chinese public broadcaster CCTV stopped broadcasting NBA games after that.
A Celtics fan page on Weibo, the hugely popular Chinese version of Twitter, said it would stop posting to the team in light of Kanter’s comments.
The NBA and Tencent have not commented on the situation.
Kanter also did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He did not play in the Celtics’ season opener, a double overtime loss to the Knicks.
Kanter’s remarks came the day the Olympic torch arrived in Beijing in preparation for the 2022 Olympics, prompting calls for a boycott of Chinese treatment of Tibet, Uyghur Muslims and Hong Kong.
Kanter has a long history of social activism. He has openly criticized Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and was indicted in his home country in 2018 for belonging to an armed terrorist group, which he denies. Turkey, which has revoked his passport, is asking for his extradition.
Reuters information is included in this report.