Boston Celtics basketball player Enes Kanter is under fire in China after calling President Xi Jinping a “brutal dictator”.
In a video posted on Twitter, he also expressed support for the Free Tibet movement.
His name has since been blocked by the Chinese social media site Weibo, and streaming of the Celtics’ games has reportedly been canceled.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry accused Kanter of “trying to attract attention”.
It comes two years after tweets from then Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey prompted the Chinese broadcaster to stop airing NBA games.
“My message to the Chinese government is free Tibet,” Kanter told his followers. “Tibet belongs to the Tibetans”.
China has long been accused of suppressing cultural and religious freedom in Tibet, a remote and predominantly Buddhist region. The government denies the allegations and claims that Tibet has developed considerably under its rule.
On the same day as his video, Kanter showed off shoes with the phrase “Free Tibet” drawn by Australian-based Chinese dissident cartoonist Badiucao. He planned to wear them for his game against the New York Knicks but didn’t play. It is unclear whether the decision not to play Kanter was tied to his political message.
Those Tibetan self-imitation sacrifices will never be forgotten！
– Badiucao???????? (@badiucao) October 21, 2021
Badiucao told the BBC that Kanter contacted him weeks ago about collaborating on this project. “He has a very clear idea that he wants to defend the Tibetan community,” said the cartoonist.
“It is a disappointment that he was not given a single minute on the pitch.”
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Future Celtics matches are not listed as available for live broadcast on the Chinese streaming app Tencent.
On the official Celtics page, some fans have called for his removal from the team while others have apologized.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Kanter’s remarks “weren’t worth refuting.”
“We will never accept those attacks to discredit Tibet’s development and progress,” he said.
Kanter, known for his activism, had his Turkish passport removed by the country’s government for his remarks on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In 2019, prosecutors in Turkey issued an international arrest warrant for Kanter, claiming he had links to armed groups behind a failed 2016 coup. Kanter denies the allegations.
When politics and sport meet
Zhaoyin Feng, BBC News, Washington
The NBA is once again on a political mine in one of its largest markets.
Overnight, Enes Kanter was largely blown off the internet in China, but compared to Daryl Morey’s Hong Kong tweet that sparked a social media storm two years ago, reactions in China to Kanter’s comments have been relatively contained.
Many NBA fans in China may know little of exactly what Kanter said, only realizing that he offended the authorities. Not to mention Kanter’s comments, an NBA blogger in China claims the player “forgot his place” and tried to curry favor with the United States. “He’s just a basketball player … He should focus on playing the ball.”
The bigger picture of this controversy is that with the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics around the corner, politics and sports appear to be on a collision course.
Activists have called for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics for the country’s human rights, while China has repeatedly criticized these appeals as “politicizing sport”. A senior member of the International Olympic Committee recently said it is beyond the organization’s power to hold the Chinese government accountable for any human rights violations.
As China’s sporting prowess and its tension with the West continue to grow, it will soon be nearly impossible for athletes, corporations and international leagues to untangle the complicated link between politics and sport.
Protest at the lighting of the Beijing Olympics torch
- 3 days ago
Chinese backlash to the NBA boss’s Hong Kong tweet
- October 7, 2019
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This Article is Sourced from BBC News. You can check the original article here: Source