If there is one player in the NBA who’s going to have something to say about the league’s weak reaction to its ongoing China controversy, it’s Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter.
The Turkish national has plenty of experience with authoritarian regimes. His native Turkey has been turned into a “totalitarian prison” under president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to the Washington Post’s editorial board, and Kanter has effectively lost his country by speaking out against the dictator.
His passport has been cancelled, his father has been imprisoned, he is no longer able to play outside the U.S., he has had youth basketball camps threatened, he has been accosted at a mosque and he sleeps with a panic button due to a truckload of death threats.
Meanwhile, the NBA and its players are dealing with an authoritarian problem of their own. Of course, rather than face the stick from Turkey as Kanter has, they are instead being incentivized by the carrot of Chinese revenue to stay silent about the country’s human rights violations and suppression of democracy in Hong Kong. China’s threat to erase the league from the country like it has the Rockets and so many other dissenters has been effective; no major NBA players have publicly supported Daryl Morey’s tweet of “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong,” lest they lose a significant portion of their paycheck.
Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James went so far as to call Morey “misinformed” on Monday for tweeting such a thing about a city where police have arrested thousands of protesters pushing for democratic elections and against a bill that would allow criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China.
Enes Kanter has some things to say, probably about LeBron James
James’ complaints of a “terrible week” in which the Lakers nearly had preseason games cancelled, lamenting how “people could have been harmed, not only financially but physically, emotionally spiritually” by Morey’s tweet — “hurt feelings” are a frequent trope used by Chinese propaganda against dissent — and refusal to discuss the politics of a country where he makes millions predictably drew some prime subtweeting from Kanter late Monday night.
Wow dude! 🤦🏻♂️— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) October 15, 2019
SMH— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) October 15, 2019
🤢— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) October 15, 2019
-Haven’t seen or talked to my family 5 years— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) October 15, 2019
-Jailed my dad
-My siblings can’t find jobs
-Revoked my passport
-International arrest warrant
-My family can’t leave the country
-Got Death Threats everyday
-Got attacked, harassed
-Tried to kidnap me in Indonesia
FREEDOM IS NOT FREE
Kanter didn’t immediately denounce the NBA’s reaction to Morey’s tweet either, though he probably shouldn’t have to be the league’s singular anti-authoritarian mouthpiece at the end of the day. He instead said that he hoped the league could “build bridges.” Monday’s sub-tweeting might be a signal he’s becoming less confident in that happening.
Just what the Celtics-Lakers rivalry needed: geopolitical intrigue.
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