After Enes Kanter, center of the Boston Celtics tweeted a two minute video in which he expressed support for Tibet and wore shoes that had the phrase "Free Tibet" printed on them during Wednesday night’s game against New York Knicks, the Chinese media pulled the games from the Boston Celtics.
"I am here to speak out and add my voice about the events in Tibet. Kanter posted the video on Wednesday to Instagram and Twitter, saying that the Chinese government has brutally ruled over Tibetans. When he posted the video, Kanter called Chinese President Xi Jinping a “brutal dictator” and wore a shirt featuring the image of Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
Badiucao, an Australian cartoonist and artist dissident from China, designed shoes for him.
On Thursday, Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry said Kanter was "trying get attention" and that his comments "weren't worth refuting."
The spokesperson for the NBA streams said that they will not accept any attacks on Tibet's progress and development. TenCent and ESPN have a content-sharing agreement, and TenCent has been a rights partner to the NBA. Replays from the past are no longer available and there are no plans to show upcoming games.
Two years after Daryl Morey, then-Houston Rockets executive, tweeted his support for democracy in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong in advance of NBA preseason games there in China in 2008, the Philadelphia 76ers' games are not being streamed in China. After that, CCTV, the Chinese state broadcaster, stopped broadcasting NBA games.
One Weibo fan page for the Celtics, which is the Chinese version to Twitter, stated that it would cease posting about the team after the Kanter comments.
TenCent and the NBA have not commented on this situation.
Kanter's comments were made on the day that the Olympic torch arrived at Beijing to prepare for the 2022 Olympic Games. These Olympic Games have prompted calls to boycott China for its treatment of Tibet, Uyghur Muslims, and Hong Kong.
Kanter is a veteran of social activism. Kanter has been a vocal critic of Turkish President Tayyip Erdan and was indicted in Turkey in 2018 for belonging to an armed terrorist organization. He denies the charges. Turkey has revoked his passport and is now seeking his extradition.
This report includes information from Reuters.