Celtics games withdrawn in China after Enes Kanter's pro-Tibet messages

Boston Celtics games were abruptly taken from the Chinese internet on Thursday after a center for the team, Enes Kanter, said on social ...


Boston Celtics games were abruptly taken from the Chinese internet on Thursday after a center for the team, Enes Kanter, said on social networks that the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, was a “brutal dictator”, citing his government’s repressive policies in Tibet.

The incident could cause new problems for the NBA in China. The league has millions of dedicated fans there, but also just spent two years repairing its image in the country after a Houston Rockets leader tweeted his 2019 support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

That tweet, from Daryl Morey, who now works for the Philadelphia 76ers, was quickly deleted, but not before triggering an uproar in China. The country’s sponsors severed ties and the public broadcaster stopped broadcasting games, resulting in financial fallout that the league estimated it was costing it. hundreds of millions of dollars.

This incident also sparked a torrent of criticism of the NBA from the United States. Many politicians from all ideological backgrounds have said the league is too respectful of an authoritarian government. Some of the best players in the league, like LeBron James and James Harden, have been blamed for not standing firmly behind Morey.

“It is not known whether we will return to CCTV television in China this year,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver told reporters on Monday, referring to the Chinese public broadcaster. “Our projections do not depend on it. I’ll say we’ve been back on Tencent, the streaming service in China, for quite some time now, and will be at the start of the season.

Geopolitical tensions and the rise of nationalism have made China a minefield for multinational companies, whose access to the country’s 1.4 billion consumers is often conditioned not to take the “wrong” position on issues. such as the Beijing regime in Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang.

Since Morey’s tweet, there have been some signs that tensions between the NBA and the Chinese government have eased. Tencent, after initially shutting down NBA broadcasts, resumed streaming games shortly after the initial fury over Morey’s position began to fade. Following Kobe Bryant’s death in early 2020, Cui Tiankai, China’s Ambassador to the United States, released a statement paying tribute to the former NBA star, who has a large fan base in China. Later that year, Chinese state television broadcast a few playoff games between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat.

Silver was steadfast in saying he hoped the divide between the NBA and China would close, citing cultural benefits. There are also financial benefits to the league, a notion that U.S. lawmakers, especially conservatives, have attacked the NBA on.

But ultimately, the NBA and the Chinese government are still in the background. Joe Tsai, owner of Nets and co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, says Bloomberg last year, “Once you’re on the air, it’ll all come back. “

Representatives for the NBA and Celtics did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Kanter did not respond to the texts.

In a video Posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on Wednesday, Kanter spoke on camera for nearly three minutes and denounced what he called a “cultural genocide” in Tibet.

“I say ‘Shame on the Chinese government’,” he said, wearing a T-shirt bearing the image of the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing considers a criminal separatist. “The Chinese dictatorship is erasing Tibetan identity and culture. “

Another article on social networks by Kanter on Wednesday showed sneakers emblazoned with Tibetan flag designs and the words “Free Tibet.”

On Thursday, the Celtics’ recent games were marked as unavailable for replay via Tencent, the Chinese internet giant which has in partnership with the NBA to broadcast its games in the country. The site for Tencent Sports also indicated that the Celtics’ upcoming games will not be broadcast live.

Tencent Sports did not stream live games involving the 76ers, That is. The team hired Morey last year as president of basketball operations.

A Tencent spokeswoman declined to comment.

On Chinese social platform Weibo, a Celtics fan account said he would immediately stop posting about the team.

The account told its 615,000 Weibo subscribers, “Resolutely resist any behavior that undermines national harmony and the dignity of the homeland!”

China regards Tibet as part of its historic empire, although authorities there have long faced protests against their rule. The Communist Party led by Xi has stepped up efforts to ease ethnic tensions by encouraging locals to assimilate into Chinese society and by making Mandarin Chinese the dominant language in public life.

Kanter, who is of Turkish descent, was a prominent critical Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and one of the most outspoken players in the NBA He is active on social media and frequently posts photos with a wide range of political figures, ranging from Jared Kushner, son-in-law and first adviser to former President Donald Trump, at Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts.

Turkish prosecutors demanded Kanter’s arrest and his Turkish passport was revoked. He expressed concern that Turkish agents could kill him abroad.

When James called Morey “uninformed” in reference to the Chinese post that caused the outcry, Kanter publicly criticized James in several social media posts, writing at one point, “Wow man! »In reference to Jacques.

Kanter also added, while listing several threats to his own life, “FREEDOM IS NOT FREE.”

Elsie Chen contributed reports.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Celtics games withdrawn in China after Enes Kanter's pro-Tibet messages
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