Boston Celtics basketball player Ines Kanter has been directly attacking China for several days on Twitter, particularly in criticizing the country’s policies in Tibet and Xinjiang.
The scathing interventions of the Turkish-born athlete risk causing a serious headache in the NBA, which suffered the wrath of Beijing a few years ago after the league’s general manager, Daryl Morey, posted online his support for the protests in Hong Kong.
Kanter, whose first political intervention was not online, began his campaign last Wednesday by calling on “brutal Chinese dictator Xi Jinping” and his government to “return Tibet to Tibetans.”
He included in a video a list of human rights violations committed against the local population before noting, in a second message, that more than 150 people had set themselves on fire over the years in an attempt to draw attention to the situation.
The professional player, on Friday, attacked Beijing’s policy in Xinjiang by asking the country to “stop genocide” against the Uyghur population in the region.
Several countries, similar to human rights organizations, accuse the Chinese regime of persecuting this Muslim minority by resorting to widespread arbitrary detention as well as forced labor.
On Monday, Mr. Kanter returned to the case by stating that Xi Jinping would not “silence him”.
At the same time, he attacked Nike by accusing it of taking advantage of forced labor of Uyghurs to guarantee a portion of its production in China, while in the United States it boasted that it is a model for defending minorities. The company, which has already been criticized on this topic by the US media, denies any use of forced labor.
The NBA player also showed his anger on the basketball courts by wearing shoes with messages critical of the Chinese system.
Mr. Kanter’s outings did not go unnoticed in Beijing. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused him of “wanting to attract attention” while Chinese giant Tencent suspended domestic transmission flow Boston team matches. Internet users in the country, where the NBA is very popular, have doubled down on messages demanding the athlete apologize or be expelled from the league.
Brad Stevens, Celtics CEO, said Friday that the team intends to “support its players and their right to free speech.” He said he was convinced that would be the case with the league, which did not comment on the series of publications targeting China.
The NBA was somewhat paradoxical in 2019 when Daryl Morey – then general manager of the Houston Rockets – in favor of the Hong Kong protesters prompted state broadcaster CCTV to stop broadcasting all league games in the country.
In April, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver testified that the organization’s relationship with China remained “complex.” He defended the existing trade ties with the Asian country, noting that sport “was a way to bring people together” across borders.
Luisa Griff, an activist with the Uyghur rights organization, the Uyghur Human Rights Project, believes the National Basketball Association and other professional sports organizations “should already have realized” that they could not “sort.” It is “eclectic” in human rights and congratulates itself for supporting the Black Lives Matter movement while neglecting the situation in Xinjiang.
How can you pretend that everything is normal in the face of genocide?
However, the activist is delighted to see a well-known NBA figure sound the alarm.
Chip Pitts, an independent corporate responsibility advisor, believes companies like the NBA and Nike should seek to “act proactively” to make things happen in China rather than end up in a “reactive” mode when their presence is in China. .
“Otherwise, he might come back to chase them.” If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” notes Mr. Bates, who may see a very negative view that the NBA is seeking to silence the player.
“Ines Kanter is on the right side of the story. What he says must be heard.”
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