Is NBA Player Enes Kanter Being Punished for Criticizing Communist China?

By Jonathan Walker | November 13, 2021
Jonathan loves talking politics, economics and philosophy. He carries unique perspectives on everything making him a rather odd mix of liberal-conservative with a streak of independent Austrian thought.
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The shoes of Enes Kanter #13 of the Boston Celtics before the Celtics home opener against the Toronto Raptors at TD Garden on October 22, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts.
The shoes of Enes Kanter #13 of the Boston Celtics before the Celtics home opener against the Toronto Raptors at TD Garden on October 22, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Image: Maddie Meyer via Getty Images)

Boston Celtic player Enes Kanter has been in the news recently for his strong criticism of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He’s spoken out about the CCP’s brutal persecution of minorities, such as Uyghurs and Tibetans. However, Kanter’s activism appears to have cost him playing time on the team.

In the 2020/21 season, Kanter played for the Portland Trailblazers. He took part in 72 games, averaging 24.4 minutes per game. This year, Kanter joined the Boston Celtics. However, of the 11 games played so far, Kanter has only appeared in two, averaging five minutes per game.

According to estimates by Breitbart, this would mean that Kanter would only play in 16 games this year for a total of 80 minutes, which is far lower than the 72 games and more than 1,700 minutes of playtime Kanter had last year. The media outlet speculates that his criticism of communist China has taken away his game time.

In an interview with CNN, the Boston Celtics player revealed that the NBA attempted to scare him into remaining silent about the Chinese regime. NBA authorities apparently warned that they might ban him for being too vocal against Beijing or engaging in any action against CCP interests, like weaning anti-China shoes.

When Kanter asked NBA chief Adam Silver whether he was breaking any league rule by criticizing communist China, Silver admitted that he wasn’t and promised that the NBA is with him “against China.” 

However, Kanter is suspicious about Silver’s promise since the NBA has not publicly supported his criticism of the CCP. 

“If [The NBA] were really supporting me, they would’ve put something out there… They…would’ve put some kind of statement,” the Boston Celtics player stated.

On Oct. 20, just prior to the Celtics’ game against the New York Knicks, two NBA officials asked him not to wear shoes with slogans “Free Tibet” during the game. When he asked whether he would be violating NBA rules while playing with the shoes, the officials admitted that he wouldn’t. 

Kanter went ahead and played the game with the shoes on. Tencent, the Chinese company which broadcasts NBA games in the Asian nation, blocked the game from its streaming platform.

Kanter said in the interview that he doesn’t care about the negative repercussions that might arise from exposing the communist regime’s human rights violations.

Last month, Kanter had uploaded several videos on Twitter, slamming Beijing for its various human rights abuses. In one video, he exposed the slave labor of Uyghurs, accusing Nike of remaining silent on the issue and even benefiting from it. 

Nike is a major sponsor of the NBA. In another video, he highlighted the cultural genocide of Tibetan Buddhism, calling Chinese leader Xi Jinping a “brutal dictator.”

More recently, Kanter has spoken about the threat of a Chinese invasion facing Taiwan. 

“Taiwan will never surrender to the EVIL Chinese Communist Party. Taiwan is a DEMOCRATIC and FREE country. I #StandWithTaiwan. The future of Taiwan must be determined by the Taiwanese people. Taiwan is NOT a part of China and NEVER will be!” Kanter tweeted on Nov. 10 

In a video response, Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen thanked Kanter for supporting Taiwan and insisted that the island will “always defend” its freedom and democracy.