Will the NBA show support for Enes Kanter, or just stay quiet? That seems to be the question after China pulled Boston Celtics games from its airwaves after Kanter spoke out against the Chinese government.
Now, China will no longer show the Celtics on its major platforms — for the rest of the season (or probably until they trade or outright cut Kanter).
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This is news because the NBA profits off its Chinese audience more than any other American sports league in history. They love the NBA in China. As late former commissioner David Stern once said, “There are 350 million people in America. But there are 350 million people in China who just love basketball.”
In other words, the NBA needs China.
This has brought the league under some scrutiny, given its cozy relationship with a communist nation that is against many of the social justices touted by the NBA. And that includes freedom of speech.
Daryl Morey, formerly the general manager of the Houston Rockets and now with the Philadelphia 76ers, first brought the NBA’s relationship with China into the spotlight when he tweeted “Free Hong Kong” a couple years back.
It resulted in Morey coming under fire from the league and some of its more notable voices, including Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James.
CELTICS’ ENES KANTER EVISCERATES CHINA OVER TREATMENT OF UYGHURS; CALLS OUT MUSLIM LEADERS, ATHLETES
The backlash had little to do with anything beyond the NBA’s business bond with China — and not anything related to what is going on in the country, including China’s modern day slavery of Uighur Muslims.
The Chinese government is also totally against transgender equality, the perceived lack of which in North Carolina caused the NBA to pull its All-Star game out of Charlotte in 2016. But based on evidence, the NBA thinks it’s OK if China feels that way.
So it will be interesting to see if the league comes out favorably in support of Kanter and his recent comments. It is big on supporting the narrative of its players, though not often when the players take a stand against its biggest business partner. Bottom line: The NBA likely could not survive as it currently does without the money from China.
So the NBA is in quite a pickle.
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Could this turn into another mess for the league as it celebrates its 75th anniversary season? Will those who cover the NBA push those in charge on its relationship with China and the message delivered by Kanter? Or will it all be quickly and quietly hushed, as if it never happened and no issues exist?
Based on how much money the NBA makes off of its communist business partner, we likely already know the answers.