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Boston Celtics basketball games disappeared from the Chinese internet following Celtics player Enes Kanter’s denunciation of the Chinese Communist Party’s suppression of Tibet.
Kanter posted a video to social media Wednesday in which he slammed “brutal dictator of China Xi Jinping” and his “henchmen” for “erasing Tibetan identity and culture.” Tencent, the National Basketball Association’s Chinese distributor, marked Celtics games as unavailable to watch and indicated that future games would not be livestreamed Thursday, according to reports from the New York Times.
“My message for the Chinese government is: Free Tibet,” Kanter said in the three-minute video, in which he wore a T-shirt with an image of the Dalai Lama. “Tibet belongs to Tibetans. I’m here to add my voice and speak out about what is happening to Tibet.”
— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) October 20, 2021
“I say shame on the Chinese government,” he continued. “The Chinese dictatorship is erasing Tibetan identity and culture. The cultural genocide in Tibet is so stifling that more than 150 Tibetan people have burned themselves alive, hoping that such a horrific act of sacrifice will raise awareness toward the ongoing abuses in Tibet. After I learned all of this, I cannot stay silent. I stand with my Tibetan brothers and sisters, and I support their calls for freedom.”
A Celtics fan account on Chinese social media platform Weibo said that it would no longer support the team because of Kanter’s position.
"Any information on the team will cease to appear on this Weibo,” the page's administrator wrote. “Any behavior that undermines the harmony of the nation and the dignity of the motherland, we resolutely resist!"
The NBA has millions of fans in China who provide a revenue stream the organization is invested in keeping. In 2019, when a Houston Rockets executive tweeted support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, Chinese distributors and advertisers stopped airing games and cost the NBA millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Kanter, who is of Turkish descent, is outspoken against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish government has charged him with being a member of a terrorist organization and issued warrants for his extradition.
Tibet is an autonomous region in southwestern China, and the Chinese government maintains control over the area. China has suppressed Tibetan Buddhism and exiled Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. China has also pressured Tibet heavily toward assimilation into the Chinese culture and language.
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Original Author: Virginia Aabram