Ennis Kanter won’t back down from China – the NBA must be nervous

Boston Celtics center Ennis Kanter continues to make waves on Twitter with his one-man campaign against the Chinese Communist Party and what the NBA star says is “one of the worst human rights abuses in the world today” in Xinjiang.

Seemingly in tune with each of Beijing’s pain points, the 29-year-old used his social media platform to express his support for Taiwan on Wednesday, sharing photos of custom-made basketball shoes that bore the green flag of the Taiwan independence movement side by side. The word “democracy” and “independence”.

For the past three weeks, Kanter has been critical of the Chinese government and has even called out directly at its leader, Xi Jinping, whom he calls a “heartless dictator.” The Celtics star has called on Beijing to stop the “genocide” against the Uyghurs and close the “forced labor camps” in Xinjiang. At the end of October, Kanter led a rally on Capitol Hill, urging Congress to pass the Uighur Bipartisan Forced Labor Prevention Act.

Born in Switzerland and raised in Turkey, Kanter says he has been critical of Recep Tayyip Erdogan for a decade. The basketball star has described himself as a close ally of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who was accused by Erdogan’s government of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016. Turkey has sought the international arrest and extradition of Kanter over his links to Gulen.

However, his opposition to the Turkish leader has never generated the kind of attention his tweets about China garner in the United States and abroad.

He has thrown his weight behind the Tibetans and Hong Kong, too — all current areas of concern that the Biden administration and the Trump administration have identified before it. But no US government has yet taken Kanter’s public position.

Kanter’s campaign also extends to calling for a boycott of the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing – a key win for China’s soft power.

For the NBA and Celtics, Kanter’s activism has had measurable consequences. Shortly after his first tweet in October, Chinese multimedia giant Tencent suspended all streams and broadcasts of his team’s matches. On China’s main social media service, Weibo, a search for “Kanter” yielded no results as of 2021, while the official Boston Celtics account is riddled with abusive comments.

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This means that if Kanter’s relentless campaign gains momentum and gets support or involvement from just one player on another team, the effect could be immediate.

Meanwhile, China denies all accusations of abuse against the Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in the northwest.

While Celtics President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens was quick to support the star’s freedom of speech publicly, Kanter said in an interview with CNN’s Christian Amanpour on Wednesday that NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s support has only come private, despite the association’s previous backing. for Black. Lives Matter Movement.

Kanter said he asked Silver to make his support clear. He told me: Yes, we support you against China.

“I don’t know how true that is,” Kanter told Amanpour, “because, you know, if they were really supportive of me, they would have put something out there.” The NBA is not alone in its silence about China. Kanter also called out Nike and some of his peers, who he feels should express similar concerns.

“The NBA made me do it,” Kanter said, explaining that he was encouraged by the association’s stance on players’ freedom of expression and their right to “speak what they want to talk about.”

“They gave me this right. They basically told me to do it,” he added.

Kanter told Amanpour that the NBA assured him that he was not violating any rules or guidelines of the league. He plans to continue his campaign against injustice for as long as this is the case.

“People think I’m in politics. I’m not in politics,” he said. “I exercise human rights.”

Anis Kanter doubles the China campaign
Enes Kanter, #13 of the Boston Celtics, prior to the game against the Washington Wizards at TD Garden on October 27, 2021, in Boston, Massachusetts.
Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

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