Tencent stops streaming Boston Celtics games after Enes Kanter’s criticism of Xi Jinping

‘Brutal dictator of China, Xi Jinping, I have a message for you and your henchmen: Free Tibet’

Sravasti Dasgupta
Friday 22 October 2021 10:11
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Chinese Media Pulls Boston Celtics Games After Enes Kanter Expresses Support for Tibet

Chinese broadcaster Tencent, which streams NBA games in China, has pulled Boston Celtics games off its platform after basketball player Enes Kanter called president Xi Jinping a “brutal dictator.”

In a video uploaded on Twitter, the Turkish national said on Thursday that Tibet belonged to its people.

“I’m here to add my voice and speak out about what is happening in Tibet,” Kanter said. “Under the Chinese government’s brutal rule, the Tibetan people’s basic rights and freedoms are non-existent.”

“Brutal dictator of China, Xi Jinping, I have a message for you and your henchmen,” Kanter said. “I will say it again and again and again, loud and clear. I hope you hear me: Free Tibet. Free Tibet. Free Tibet.”

Kanter, who plays centre for the Boston Celtics, also wore shoes with “Free Tibet” emblazoned on them and posted photos on Twitter.

He wore the shoes at the team’s season opener against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night. He did not play that game.

After the game, the highlights were pulled from Tencent, which has exclusive rights for streaming NBA games in China. Though it is not clear when Celtics’ games would be available for streaming, other NBA games were not affected.

Neither the NBA nor the Celtics have put out an official comment so far.

When asked about Kanter’s posts, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said: “The player you mentioned was clout-chasing, trying to get attention with Tibet-related issues. His wrong remarks are not worth refuting.”

The move to pull Boston Celtics is similar to the action taken against Houston Rockets in 2019, when the team’s manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of the protests in Hong Kong.

Both Chinese state-run television CCTV and Tencent had pulled NBA games off. Though Tencent eventually broadcast NBA games again, CCTV stopped streaming them, except for two games during the 2020 NBA finals. Tencent did not show Philadelphia’s games last season, where Morey now works.

Meanwhile, a statement released by the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China, criticised NBA players who have deals with Chinese sportswear manufacturers, reported SCMP.

It also asked US Customs and Border Protection commissioner Troy Miller if imports from companies that have publicly endorsed the use of cotton from China’s Xinjiang region had been stopped.

China has been accused of committing mass atrocities and torture on Uyghur Muslims, the largest ethnic minority in the region. China also faced backlash for its treatment of Uyghurs from the international sporting community during the Tokyo Olympics.

Additional reporting by agencies

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