(TibetanReview.net, Oct22’21) – The government of China has disappeared from its cyberspace on Oct 20 all Boston Celtics broadcasts of the NBA (National Basketball Association, a professional basketball league in North America) games after its star player Enes Kanter made a fervent call for a free Tibet on social media.
“Free Tibet”, “Tibet belongs to Tibetans,” Kanter is shown saying in a video he posted earlier that day. “I’m here to add my voice and speak out about what is happening in Tibet.” He has also said that under Chinese rule the Tibetan people’s “basic rights and freedoms are not existent.” He has called China’s leader Xi Jinping a “brutal dictator.”
In multiple social media posts, Kanter has also spoken out against “cultural genocide” in Tibet.
“I say shame on the Chinese government,” Kanter is seen saying. “The Chinese dictatorship is erasing Tibetan identity and culture.”
The video shows Kanter wearing a t-shirt with an image of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exile spiritual leader, the 1989 Nobel Peace laureate, and the occupied nation’s emblematic icon.
Kanter has also posted photos of sneakers he wore to the Celtics season-opening game that night bearing the words “Free Tibet” along with an image of a Tibetan self-immolator. The design for the shoes came from Badiucao, a Chinese political cartoonist and activist living in exile in Australia. Badiucao has told the BBC that Kanter had reached out to him weeks earlier regarding collaborating on this project.
On Oct 20 night, at the Celtics’ season opener against the New York Knicks, he wore those shoes with an all-caps message: “FREE TIBET.” Kanter had planned to wear them for his match but did not play. It’s unclear whether the decision not to play him was related to his political message, said the bbc.com Oct 22.
Kanter’s online video message came one day after Students for a Free Tibet and the Tibetan community in New York and New Jersey, including former Tibetan political prisoners under Chinese rule met with him at a community center in New York. He says in the video that after learning about the oppression in Tibet, he “cannot stay silent.”
Kanter and the Tibetans discussed the parallels between his own exile from Turkey and the persecution many Tibetans face, reported sports.yahoo.com Oct 21.
Earlier, two years ago, the NBA found itself in trouble after Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted an image saying, “Stand With Hong Kong.” The Chinese government reacted by quickly removing NBA games off the air.
Tencent Sports in China still does not stream games of the Philadelphia 76ers, the team Morey now leads. And, like other broadcasters, it has also stopped streaming games of the Celtics, Kanter’s current team.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin maintained at a news briefing on Oct 21 that Kanter was “trying to get attention” and that his remarks “were not worth refuting.”
Kanter, who is known for his activism, has had his Turkish passport removed by the country’s government over his remarks about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In 2019, prosecutors in Turkey issued an international arrest warrant for Kanter, claiming he had links with armed groups behind a 2016 failed coup. Kanter denies the allegations. He faced death threats and the criminal trial of his father back home as a result, noted edition.cnn.com Oct 22.
The 29-year-old Swiss-born, Turkey–raised Kanter’s career highlights include FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship MVP (2009) and Albert Schweitzer Tournament Most Talented Player (2008) and began his professional career with Utah Jazz in 2011.