NBA should play defense for Enes Kanter
Speaking truth to power is the term used to describe the calling out of individuals, businesses, politicians and governments for real or perceived bad behavior.
These days, it is a clarion call to action.
For example, when Georgia amended its voting law, there was a firestorm of backlash, fanned by President Joe Biden, who called the move an “atrocity.”
That was followed by Major League Baseball moving the 2021 All-Star Game out of Atlanta. Former member of the Georgia House of Representatives Stacey Abrams wrote in USAToday that “Boycotts work — when the target risks losing something highly valued and the pain becomes unbearable.”
The Atlanta Braves pushed back at the move, as did Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, but the controversy grabbed attention and held on.
Which leads us to this week’s “speak truth to power” moment, when Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter called the China’s leader Xi Jinping, a “brutal dictator.”
As The Hill reported, Kanter also tweeted a video in support of independence for Tibet and also wore sneakers emblazoned with the words “Free Tibet” during Wednesday night’s game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Soon after the tweet, highlights from the Celtics’ game against the Knicks were made unavailable on the Tencent Sports app primarily used in China to stream NBA games, Reuters reported.
The upcoming Celtics games also appear to be unavailable for livestream.
“Under the Chinese government’s brutal rule, Tibetan peoples’ basic rights and freedoms are non-existent,” Kanter said.
“I say, ‘Shame on the Chinese government.’ The Chinese dictatorship is erasing Tibetan identity and culture,” he added.
In America, Kanter can say that. He can paint that on a sign and march down Boylston Street if he wishes.
But tweet it out to China and there are “technical difficulties.”
Tencent and the NBA did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.
China has repeatedly said that Tibet, the northwest region of Xinjiang and Hong Kong issues are “internal affairs,” not human rights issues, and that other countries should not interfere.
Two years ago, the NBA was swept into controversy when then-Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of anti-government protests in Hong Kong.
NBA officials issuing a subsequent apology after China removed games from state-run television, a decision that cost the NBA hundreds of millions of dollars.
Earlier this year, actor John Cena apologized profusely to China for referring to Taiwan as a country while doing promotional work for the latest “Fast and Furious” movie.
And yet — where is the outrage? Where is Joe Biden, decrying human rights abuses and standing up for democracy?
We’re still packing for next year’s Olympics for heaven’s sake.
As CNBC reported, the State Department denied that it was considering a joint boycott alongside allies of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing earlier this year.
“Our position on the 2022 Olympics has not changed. We have not discussed and are not discussing any joint boycott with allies and partners,” a senior State Department official wrote in an emailed statement.
There’s money to be made in China — lots of it.
The ball is the NBA’s court.