Enes Kanter doubles down on China criticism, calls out other athletes

Society & Culture

Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter's criticism of China over Tibet and Xinjiang has caused him to be censored and his team's content to be removed from official streaming platforms.

Enes Kanter, the Boston Celtics center who tweeted “Free Tibet” last Wednesday, has continued to speak out against the Chinese Communist Party. On Friday, ahead of his team’s game against the Toronto Raptors, he posted a video on his social media channels in which he addressed the plight of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

I am calling you out in front of the whole world.
Close down the SLAVE labor camps and free the UYGHUR people!

Stop the GENOCIDE, now!#FreeUyghurs pic.twitter.com/eEoiw5Uz2K

— Enes FREEDOM (@EnesFreedom) October 22, 2021


The Chinese government has been taking sweeping measures to crack down on the Uyghur people simply because they embrace their own religion, their own culture, language, history and identity.

The Uyghur region has become an open-air prison and surveillance state where freedoms are nonexistent for the Uyghur people. The Chinese government has sent Uyghurs along with Kazakhs, Tajiks, and other Muslim groups to concentration camps for simply applying for a passport, for texting someone overseas, or for believing in anything that does not align with the Chinese Communist Party’s agenda.

The Turkish star also admonished Muslim leaders and athletes around the world for not speaking out against the genocide, including Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Abu Dhabi crown prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Pakistani President Imran Khan.

“It’s shameful and sad how you have decided to prioritize money and business with China over human rights,” he says in the video. “You call yourself Muslims, but you are just using that for show. You simply do not care about people.”

Kanter also extended his criticism to include fellow Muslim sports stars: former boxing world champion Amir Khan, NBA icon Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and global soccer superstar Mohamed Salah. “Why are you staying silent? Say something. Do something. Speak up. Your silence and your inaction is complicity.”

Kanter’s tweet last week on Tibet caused his team, the Boston Celtics, to be scrubbed from Chinese television and streaming platforms. There is no indication as to when the Celtics will return to screens. Two years ago, after Daryl Morey, then the Houston Rockets GM, tweeted about Hong Kong, the Rockets had to wait 15 months before their games could be broadcast live. Tencent, which partners with the NBA, does not stream games involving Morey’s current team, the Philadelphia 76ers.

China news, weekly.

Sign up for The China Project’s weekly newsletter, our free roundup of the most important China stories.

On Wednesday, in the Celtics’ season-opener against the New York Knicks, Kanter wore shoes designed by dissident artist Badiucao with the words “Free Tibet.”

In response to the Tibet video, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wāng Wénbīn 汪文斌 dismissed the NBA star of “clout chasing” and that his “wrong remarks are not worth refuting.” It remains to be seen if Kanter’s latest actions will elicit an official response.

Asked about Kanter on Friday, Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens voiced support for his player. According to the Boston Globe:

“My conversation with Enes was real short and sweet,” Stevens said during his weekly appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub, “and that is we’re always going to support any of our players and their right to freedom of speech and expression. And I think in my experience with the Celtics and the NBA, that’s the way it’s been and that’s the way it’ll continue to be.”

Kanter is not new to activism. He has repeatedly spoken out against Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, tweeting in August:


Human rights protests hit torch lighting ceremony as criticism builds

Image via Reuters

A protest interrupted the Olympic torch lighting ceremony in Athens last Monday ahead of the Olympic flame’s journey to China. Human rights activists unfurled a banner that read “No Genocide Games” and waved a Tibetan flag, calling for a boycott, as IOC President Thomas Bach and Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou looked on.

The governing Olympic body of Greece, the Hellenic Olympic Committee Olympic (HOC), expressed disappointment.

“The lighting of the Olympic flame represents 3,000 years of Greek history and a commitment to peace and dialogue,” the HOC said. “While the HOC respects individual rights to freedom of expression, it is disappointing that this traditional cultural event has been used by a few individuals for other purposes.”

Following the arrest of a number of activists, Students for Free Tibet accused the Greek police of acting at the direction of Chinese officials.

The torch arrived in Beijing on Wednesday. It will eventually take a tour of northern China, through Inner Mongolia, Tianjin, Jilin, and Heilongjiang, “where winter sports are popular,” according to Xinhua.

The relay is set to end with China’s most successful Winter Olympian, Yáng Yáng 杨扬, lighting the cauldron in the Bird’s Nest Stadium, according to sources within the Chinese Olympic Committee.

In contrast, the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay lasted 129 days and went through 21 countries, and was carried by thousands of torch bearers on its “Journey of Harmony.”


Other Stories:

Three-time U.S. Olympic skater Evan Bates decries “terrible” human rights issues in 2022 host China (NBC)

French Ligue 1 (optimistically) plan Chinese fixtures next year (Sports Business Journal)

China’s Zeng Fenbo bets on himself with Ignite as stepping-stone to NBA stardom (SF Chronicle)

Move over McGregor, China’s revving up on MMA (Radii)

Five confirmed cases in Beijing sees Beijing Marathon postponed (Global Times)

The China Sports Column runs every week on SupChina.

China news, weekly.

Sign up for The China Project’s weekly newsletter, our free roundup of the most important China stories.