Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter’s scathing remarks about Chinese President Xi Jinping had consequences for the organization overseas.
Kanter sent a pro-Tibet message in a Facebook video on Wednesday and during the game against the New York Knicks, he wore “Free Tibet” on his sneakers. He called Xi a “brutal dictator.”
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“My message to the Chinese government is free Tibet. Tibet belongs to Tibetans, I am here to add my voice and speak out against what is happening in Tibet under the Chinese government’s brutal rule,” he said.
He added: “I say, ‘Shame on the Chinese government.’ The Chinese dictatorship is erasing Tibetan identity and culture.”
The Celtics-Knicks game was “unavailable” to be replayed on Tencent, the Chinese streaming giant, according to the New York Times. Tencent Sports reportedly indicated it would not stream Celtics games for the foreseeable future – a move already pulled on Philadelphia 76ers games as punishment for then-Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s pro-Hong Kong support two years ago.
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A Celtics fan account on China’s social media platform Weibo said they would stop posting about the team.
“Resolutely resist any behavior that damages national harmony and the dignity of the motherland!”
Chinese officials have recently made a bigger push to get Tibetans to speak the standard spoken and written Chinese. China’s Communist Party said it “peacefully liberated” Tibetans from so-called “oppressive theocracy” and restored Chinese rule over the region. Critics have said the move toward cultural assimilation would spell the demise of Tibetan tradition.
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Kanter is one of the most outspoken NBA players on geopolitics. He’s criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and expressed fears he could be killed if he steps outside the U.S.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.