What a difference a year and a few tweets slamming China for slave labor make. Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter has seen his playing time severely diminished after posting a series of social media messages attacking NBA partner China for oppressing its peoples, leaving some wondering if Kanter is being punished for his advocacy of freedom.
During the 2020-21 season, the 2011 first-round NBA Draft pick was a mainstay player for the Portland Trailblazers. Kanter played 72 games and averaged 24.4 minutes per game. He also earned 11.2 points in Portland, according to the NBA’s stats.
But this year, Kanter has suffered a marked cut to his playing time. Since moving to the Boston Celtics, he has only appeared in two of the 11 games played so far and averaged only 5 minutes on the floor.
Meaning, after going public with his pro-freedom efforts directed at China, Kanter is on pace to play in only 16 games and play only 80 minutes this year after playing over 1,700 minutes over the course of 72 games last year.
Kanter has a $2.7 million-dollar, one-year deal with the Celtics, and it sure seems they are not playing him to the level that they are paying him.
The question becomes, why is Kanter riding the bench like a third-string rookie instead of playing?
This week, Kanter admitted that he had been contacted by NBA officials who have wagged their fingers in his face about criticizing the league’s multi-billion-dollar partners in red China. In a recent interview, Kanter admits that NBA threatened to ban him from the league for wearing shoes displaying messages critical of China. According to UNWatch, China tops the list as the worst human rights abuser in the world.
Kanter’s benching comes in the wake of a series of videos and messages to social media about China.
The 29-year-old player posted several videos in which he excoriated China’s “brutal dictators” and called on them to stop oppressing the country’s minority Uyghur population and the free Tibetan people.
Kanter directed criticism at China for its horrific treatment of the people of Tibet with an October 20 video in which he took the red Chinese to task and accused China of committing “cultural genocide” against Tibetans. His video resulted in quick reprisal by the Chinese government as Boston Celtics games were immediately deleted from Tencent, China’s NBA broadcast partner.
The player followed that up with a video calling on China to put an end to its system of slave labor and the imprisonment of its minority Uyghur population.
Along with his focus on China’s human rights abuses, he posted several shoe designs aimed at raising awareness about China’s crimes:
To those of you who care about human dignity:
Please join me in spreading the word.
What is happening to the Uyghurs is one of the WORST human rights abuses in the world today.
— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) October 22, 2021
XI JINPING and the Chinese Communist Party
Someone has to teach you a lesson,
I will NEVER apologize for speaking the truth.
You can NOT buy me.
You can NOT scare me.
You can NOT silence me.
— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) October 24, 2021
In another effort to highlight China’s abuses, the Nets player spoke directly to Nike and its top man, Phil Knight. Kanter slammed Nike for relying on slave labor for some of its products.
— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) October 25, 2021
Also, in October, Kanter offered to fly Nike CEO Phil Knight to China, writing, “How about I book plane tickets for us and let’s fly to China together. We can try to visit these SLAVE labor camps, and you can see it with your own eyes.”
He invited LeBron James and Michael Jordan along on the trip, as well.
To the owner of @Nike, Phil Knight
How about I book plane tickets for us
and let's fly to China together.
— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) October 26, 2021
The native of Turkey has been about the only NBA player to campaign against actual — not imagined — oppression by opposing the communist Chinese government and its widespread use of forced labor in its factories.
Kanter has also supported freedom in his native country by opposing Turkish dictator President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. However, his criticism sparked Erdogan to issue at least nine arrest warrants charging Kanter with “insulting the president.”
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