NBA Player Speaks Out Against China, Communist Government Retaliates

( – The Chinese communist government doesn’t take kindly to criticism. A prominent National Basketball League (NBA) player recently threw some jabs at the Chinese government over human rights issues. As expected, Chinese officials retaliated where they believed they could hurt someone the most — the pocketbook.

Over the last decade, the NBA made strides into bringing basketball to China. With over a billion people and 500 million fans, there’s a lot of money to be made. The NBA created NBA China, a $5 billion entity that sells tickets, sportswear, and memorabilia. NBA China also invests in developing local players.

Will the NBA focus on leading the NBA, or will it capitulate to China for money?

Celtics Enes Kanter Tackles China Over Human Rights

In recent weeks, Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter took to social media and wore specially designed clothes during NBA games to call attention to China’s mistreatment of the Uyghur community, Tibet, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

The 29-year-old basketball player said that while the NBA speaks out about issues in the US, such as Black Lives Matter and social justice, it remains eerily quiet about alleged Chinese abuses. According to Kanter, the league struggles to balance player activism with a growing and highly profitable Chinese market.

The basketball player blamed the NBA and said they made him speak out about the situation. Kanter said the league encourages players to talk about whatever they want, so he did. Kanter added that he spoke privately with the commissioner and league officials. According to the Celtics center, they gave him free rein to use his free speech rights to call out China.

China Retaliates as Allegations Grow

Recently, Kanter went after China hard, calling Chinese President Xi Jinping a brutal dictator and saying they should free Tibet. It didn’t take long for China to make its feelings known. In 2019, Tencent signed a five-year, $1.5 billion agreement to broadcast NBA games digitally in China. After Kanter’s statement blasting Jinping, the government sent a shot across the bow. It cut Tencent’s ability to broadcast Celtics games.

Kanter isn’t alone in his criticism of China. A recent ESPN investigation discovered serious human rights abuses in NBA China training facilities. ESPN learned about the revelations before former Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for Hong Kong protestors in 2019. After Morey’s tweets, the Chinese government banned NBA games on state-run television. The league lost an estimated $200 million.

Kanter was born in Switzerland to Turkish parents. He’s been very vocal about extremist actions by the Turkish government and is a dedicated member of the Hizmet Movement, which attempted a coup in 2016. The following year, Turkey revoked Kanter’s passport. So, for a player like Kanter, the NBA gives him a unique platform to talk about important issues such as authoritarian regimes.

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