China halts Celtics games after Enes Kanter’s pro-Tibet comments

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The outspoken center denounced President Xi Jinping as a “brutal dictator” and criticized China’s rule over Tibet in a message containing a nearly three-minute video.

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Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter’s pro-Tibet statements sparked backlash for the National Basketball Association in China, with his team’s games being taken off the air just two years after the league became a flashpoint in China. US-Chinese relations.

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Thursday morning in Hong Kong, Internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. has removed all live broadcasts of upcoming Celtics games, leaving fans confused and inquiring in the comments section of their sports page. The NBA and its Chinese branch did not immediately respond to Bloomberg News requests for comment. Tencent also did not respond.

The outspoken player denounced President Xi Jinping as a “brutal dictator” and criticized China’s rule over Tibet in a post containing a nearly three-minute video. “Tibet belongs to the Tibetan people! Kanter wrote in the tweet. Wearing a black t-shirt with an image of the Dalai Lama, Kanter said in the video that he could no longer “remain silent”. “Under the brutal regime of the Chinese government, the fundamental rights and freedoms of the Tibetan people are non-existent. “

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Kanter was “grown” to “catch the eye,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Thursday at a regular press conference in Beijing, not to mention the NBA. “We invite these objective friends to visit Tibet, but in the meantime, we will never accept any defamation and attack against the progress and development of Tibet,” he added.

  1. In this Jan. 1, 2019 file photo, New York Knicks center Enes Kanter jokes with teammates during a timeout during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets in Denver. .

    Turkish prosecutors seek arrest warrant for NBA player Enes Kanter, a staunch opponent of Erdogan

  2. Boston Celtics’ Kanter sparks backlash in China after Tibet, Xi comments

The NBA is the most popular American sports league in China and its business there is already a billion dollar business.

In 2019, a tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong drew a backlash from Chinese fans and corporate sponsors. State broadcaster CCTV suspended broadcasting of NBA competitions for about a year and Tencent, which had just signed a $ 1.5 billion deal to broadcast NBA games online in China, interrupted the broadcast. service for about a week.

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Kanter, a practicing Muslim, has sparked international controversy in the past. In 2017, an arrest warrant was issued for him in Turkey, where he grew up, after Kanter made critical comments against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

His latest comments on Tibet sparked anger on Weibo, one of China’s largest social media platforms.

Missing messages

Some users said the player should be fired and called for a boycott of the NBA. But at noon Chinese time, discussion of the incident appeared to have been censored on the platform, with searches for “Kanter” in Chinese and English yielding no results. “Celtics” always gave results, but the articles on the Kanter episode, which also accompanied the related research, disappeared from the results.

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A Chinese influencer, who has more than 614,000 followers on Weibo and regularly posts about the Celtics, said he would stop commenting on the team.

“We resolutely boycott any behavior which would undermine ethnic harmony and the dignity of the homeland,” said the account, which bears the name “Celtics’ Weibo Express,” said in the message Thursday.

China’s tolerance for external criticism has declined dramatically under Xi, with businesses regularly being caught in the crosshairs. Swedish clothing giant Hennes & Mauritz AB was criticized earlier this year for comments on charges of forced labor in the cotton industry in the controversial Xinjiang region. The fallout also spread to Nike Inc., and H&M sales took a hit as its stores were removed from Chinese mapping apps.

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