Things seemingly are being handled a little different this time around, as the NBA deals with another controversy with China — courtesy of Enes Kanter.
The Boston Celtics center has been increasingly critical of the Chinese government in support of Tibet, and this season he’s called out the league and Nike for their relations to the nation on the news, social media and with customized sneakers during games.
His coach, Ime Udoka, said no one in the organization has tried to limit his free speech — though Celtics broadcasts have been blacked out in China. Apparently, private conversations with NBA commissioner Adam Silver also have yielded support for Kanter, if not publicly.
“NBA made me do this,” Kanter told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “Because every time when one of the NBA teams or the commissioner comes out to speak, they say we are encouraging players to talk about whatever they want to talk about. … We are giving freedom to our players to talk about all the injustices happening around the world, all the human rights abuses around the world. So, they gave me this right.”
Kanter hasn’t played much this season, averaging 5.0 minutes per game, which adds another layer to the situation the league has on its hands, as it weighs Kanter’s activism and a lucrative fanbase overseas in China. It may be at least mostly coincidental, as he’d be towards the end of the rotation anyway.
The league itself has been pretty hush on the matter.
“If they were really supporting me, they would have put something out there,” Kanter told CNN. They would have put out some kind of statement. People think I do politics, I don’t do politics. I do human rights.”