Celtics off the Air in China After Kanter’s Tibet Comments: Report

Enes Kanter Celtics

Getty Enes Kanter is introduced as a member of the Boston Celtics at a press conference in 2019.

Hapless though they were last season, the Boston Celtics may just be one of the must-see teams of 2021-22. After an eventful summer, the club suddenly finds itself with a revitalized front office, a new head coach, a retooled roster and storylines aplenty. More than anything, though, hope has returned to the Massachusetts Bay.

It’s a mix that is generating interest around the basketball world. However, hoops fans in at least one country are going to have a tough time checking in on the Beantowners after comments made by Celtics big man Enes Kanter had some unintended consequences.

As reported by the New York Times on Thursday, the Celtics have been pulled from broadcast by Tencent, the NBA’s streaming partner in China. That move came in the wake of an October 20 Facebook post by Kanter criticizing Chinese President Xi Jinping and standing in support of a free Tibet.

Kanter Speaks Out Again

The 29-year-old Kanter, who has also played for the Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers, is no stranger to speaking out against injustice. His public denouncement of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has resulted in the canceling of his passport and attempts to extradite him back to his native country.

Kanter, though, continues to do his part to raise awareness about government corruption and the mistreatment of people around the world.

“My message for the Chinese government is free Tibet,” Kanter’s video message began. “Under the Chinese government’s brutal rule, Tibetan people’s basic rights and freedoms are nonexistent. They’re not allowed to study and learn their language and culture freely. They’re not allowed to travel freely. They’re not allowed to access information freely.”

He also spoke about Tibetan people being detained, sent to political re-education classes and even executed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party. Kanter went on to target President Jinping directly, calling him a “brutal dictator.”

As relayed by ESPN, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin maintains that Kanter was just “trying to get attention,” further stating that his remarks “were not worth refuting.”

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The NBA’s China Problem

This isn’t the first time a prominent member of the NBA family made comments about China that resulted in the league getting yanked from TV screens. For his part, Philadelphia 76ers president Daryl Morey — then a member of the Houston Rockets — tweeted in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests in 2019, as noted by the Times.

Although he deleted said tweet shortly thereafter, his speaking out caused multiple Chinese outfits to withdraw from sponsorship agreements with the league. Moreover, games were removed from the state-run television service CCTV.

In the end, Morey’s tweet cost the league hundreds of millions of dollars. The NBA took a major PR hit, too, by failing to join Morey in his strong support of Hong Kong.

Eventually, NBA basketball returned to China via Tencent, but Morey’s Sixers are conspicuously absent from the streamer. Now, the Celtics look to have joined them.


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