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NBA veteran Enes Kanter calls out China, demands freedom for Tibet and respect for human rights

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Celtics player Enes Kanter has condemned China's policies in Tibet and called President Xi Jinping a "brutal dictator" (Photo/AP)

By Tenzin Lekhden

DHARAMSHALA, Oct. 22: Ahead of the Boston Celtics’ season opener, NBA veteran Enes Kanter, going into his 10th season, condemned China’s “brutal dictator Xi Jinping” for committing human rights atrocities against Tibetans in a video published across various social media platforms. 

Following the release of the video, the Boston Celtics vs New York Knicks game scheduled to broadcast live on Tencent (NBA’s official Chinese broadcast partner) was cut from the platform. Two years ago the Houston Rockets game was pulled from Chinese broadcasting and streaming platforms after a tweet from Daryl Morey, the team’s General Manager, who showed solidarity with the protesters in Hong Kong.

Kanter wore a custom “Free Tibet” shoe for the opening game, designed by Badiucao, a Chinese-Australian artist. The paintings on the shoe commemorate the more than 150 Tibetans who have self-immolated in protest against China’s tyranny over Tibet.

The basket ball player of Turkish descent is not new to standing up for human rights and speaking up against powerful totalitarian governments. He is well known for his outspoken criticisms against the Turkish president. The Turkish government, in 2018, had charges made against him for belonging to a terrorist group and had demanded his extradition. Kanter has denied the charges.

Kanter wore a custom “Free Tibet” shoe for the opening game, designed by Badiucao, a Chinese-Australian artist. (Photo/AFP)

In a game that went to double overtime, the Celtics were missing their multiple All-Star Centre Al Horford due to injury and the Knicks had All-Star big Julius Randle who filled the stats sheet. But Kanter didn’t play in the game. Many say that his absence may be mandated by Celtics or the NBA and that it has parallels with the NFL and Colin Kaepernick saga. Garry Kasparov, the Russian chess grandmaster and political activist tweeted, “Another bold stand by my friend @EnesKanter. Is it a coincidence that he sat on the bench against the Knicks tonight in double overtime? Or is the NBA’s love of Chinese money more important that the rights of their players and China’s victims?

The NBA has often turned a blind eye to issues that are certain to spark conflict with China. A journalist for The spectator, Melissa Chen pointed out the NBA’s double standard tweeting that “Either [the NBA] support [Kanter’s] activism (as they did BLM) and lose billions or silence him & reveal it has no principles.”

China is NBA’s largest multi-billion-dollar market outside the United States and risks losing business investments and a large dedicated audience if they support issues deemed sensitive by Beijing. The NBA and its array of talk shows and anchors have not talked on this story that has been picked up by every major media houses. Their silence highlights a capitalistic inclination that lies at the root of this moral hypocrisy, as pointed out by many critics. 

On Thursdays, according to Wenhao, in a shared screenshot on Twitter, a Chinese spokesperson commented that “Kanter’s remarks aren’t worth being rebuked” and further made comments highlighting “how much development China has brought to Tibet.” 

According to ESPN, D.C.-based Office of Tibet released a statement that read, “We are thankful to Enes Kanter, NBA player for speaking in support of Tibet. In a two minutes’ video message he summed up the existential threat faced by the Tibetans under Chinese communist rule. Every word that he said is true.” 

Students for a Free Tibet coordinated a meeting between Enes Kanter and the Tibetan community of New York on the 19th of October. SFT’s Lobsang Tseten and Kanter “discussed the parallels between Enes’ inability to return to Turkey because he would face political persecution, and the situation of most Tibetans in exile who cannot risk returning to Tibet”, SFT said in their report.

“Kanter” is now officially banned on Weibo, tweets Wenhao. His team, the Boston Celtics, games have been banned in China. The Celtics and the NBA have not commented on the issue.

2 Responses

  1. Today we Tibetan in Boston area are going to cheer the Celtics at TD Garden and support Enes Kanter for his grand opening of “FREE TIBET” shoes. The game starts at 7:30 PM. We will be there with our Tibetan National Flag and wearing FREE TIBET on front and WE LOVE KANTER! on the back T-Shirt.

  2. Every Tibetan worth their salt would have goose bumps to hear Enes Kanter blast dictator Xi and his CCP with no holds barred! This has come as a surprise because most sports people are wary of endangering their careers. The communist regime in China is a vicious and vindictive animal. All those who just met the Dalai Lama such as Lady Gaga, Salena Gomez or those who have had the temerity to speak up against the totalitarian regime have been black listed by the vile regime. These include Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, rock legend Bob Dylan. Katy Perry became a non persona grata after she waved a Taiwanese flag and wore sunflower dress during her concert in Taipei.
    Likewise Canadian Miss World 2015, Anastasia Lin was denied a visa to compete in China even though she was born there. She is banned to visit her parents and siblings in China. The list is endless with writers, sports people, politicians and artists from Taiwan and Hong Kong. People like Martin Lee, father of Hong Kong democracy, Emily Lau – Democratic Party Member, Anson Chan, Former Chief Secretary of Hong Kong are all banned from visiting China. American actors like Richard Gere and many many more are all black listed and banned from travelling to China or Tibet. Despite such black listing by the worlds most vicious regime and its propensity for retaliation, Swiss born Turkish origin, Enis Kanter has come out with a blistering attack on the CCP for its brutal treatment of the Tibetan people and the genocide that is being committed by the regime in occupied Tibet. This is no ordinary attack coming as it does from a sports man of extraordinary calibre. All Tibetans are overjoyed by his unflinching support for Tibet. We are extremely grateful for his unstinted support. We also hope that sports men and women and people who are role models of the world speak up for those who are oppressed and hapless. They must use their lofty status to expose the crimes committed against innocent people by the likes of the CCP through military occupation and political oppression. Enis Kanter is a democracy advocate and has spoken not only for Tibet but also on behalf of the Ugyur people who are facing genocide in East Turkistan. He has also also rubbed the wrong way against his own country’s dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogen who has tried to smear his reputation and destroy him. Despite the odds stacked against him, he stands tall among the man of conscience to speak the truth even when it may jeopardise his own career and go against the grain of political correctness!

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