Here we go again. As Ed pointed out yesterday, Celtics player Enes Kanter posted a video on social media Wednesday demanding that China free Tibet. In that same video, Kanter called China’s President Xi Jinping a “brutal dictator.” CNN reported that the reaction in China was about what you’d expect. Kanter was denounced and Chinese media company Tencent refused to stream the Celtics Wednesday game.
His latest comments prompted an almost immediate backlash in China, with fans denouncing Kanter and the Celtics on Chinese social media. The Celtics’ official page on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, was flooded with demands for the team to punish Kanter or offer a public apology.
One popular Celtics fan page on Weibo said it would not be posting updates from the team because of a player’s social media oversights. “For any behavior that undermines harmony of the nations and the dignity of the motherland, we resolutely resist!” the fan page posted.
Meanwhile, the Chinese broadcast of the Celtics-Knicks game was pulled by video-streaming site Tencent. The website for Tencent Sports indicated that it would not livestream upcoming Celtics games.
At a news conference Thursday, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry said Kanter was “trying to get attention” and his remarks “were not worth refuting.”
Today, Kanter has doubled-down despite the Chinese backlash. Today he released a new video with a new message about the cultural genocide in Xinjiang. “There is a genocide happening right now, right now as I speak this message,” Kanter said. He continued, “Torture, rape, forced abortions and sterilizations, family separations, arbitrary detentions. concentration camps, political reeducation, forced labor—this is all happening right now to more than 1.8 million Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region of northern, western China.”
Heartless Dictator of China,
XI JINPING and the Communist Party of China.
I am calling you out in front of the whole world.
Close down the SLAVE labor camps and free the UYGHUR people!
— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) October 22, 2021
If you watched the whole clip, Kanter called out a whole host of Muslims who aren’t speaking up about the situation including fellow athlete Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. “Say something. Do something. Speak up. Your silence and your inaction is complicit,” he said. So far, there’s no response from Kareem on social media.
He closes by saying, “Heartless dictator of China, Xi Jinping and the Communist Party of China, I’m calling you out right now in front of the whole world. Close down the slave labor camps and free the Uyghur people.” There’s no way China isn’t going to respond to that.
But I think the real challenge here isn’t just to China, it’s to the NBA: “It’s shameful and sad how we have decided to prioritize money and business with China over human rights.” We all remember how the NBA and most of its outspoken players, coaches and owners bowed to China when Daryl Morey made a comment about Hong Kong.
So far it seems the NBA hasn’t issued a statement about Kanter, but as China continues to push back and cancel the streaming of games they are probably going to have to say something pretty soon.