Celtics games banned in China after Enes Kanter calls Xi a 'brutal dictator'


The Celtics have been canceled … in China.

On Wednesday, Enes Kanter shared a video on Twitter in which he spoke in favor of Tibet independence. China captured the previously autonomous region in 1950, and has a brutal record of cracking down on dissent in the territory.

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In response, the Chinese government cut the live broadcast of Boston’s season-opener against the Knicks (they missed a hell of a game). A Celtics fan account on Weibo, a popular Chinese social media platform, said it was also discontinuing updates on the team due to Kanter’s remarks.

“Brutal dictator of China, Xi Jinping, I have a message for you and your henchmen: ‘Free Tibet, free Tibet, free Tibet,’” Kanter said.

This is the NBA’s second political blowup with China in three years. When now-76ers GM Daryl Morey tweeted his support for the Hong Kong protesters in 2019, Chinese state television stopped airing all NBA games. Today, 76ers games aren’t aired in China, because they employ Morey.

The NBA apologized to China for Morey’s remarks.

Kanter, 29, has a laudable history of political activism. For years, he’s criticized the authoritarian government of Turkey, where he grew up, resulting in Turkish authorities seeking his arrest. When Kanter first joined the Celtics in 2019, he almost didn’t play in their Christmas Day game in Toronto, in fear of being arrested. He eventually traveled with the team after Canada guaranteed his safety.

The Turkish government sentenced Kanter’s father, another critic of President Tayyip Erdogan, to 15 years in prison.

As the only NBA player who fears his arrest by international police, and whose father is imprisoned in his home country, Kanter knows the brutality of oppression first-hand. The veteran center is fearless and outspoken.

He planned to wear shoes emblazoned with the words “Free Tibet” Wednesday night, but never made it into the game.

There’s always next time. Kanter knows how to make a statement.