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Celtics games pulled in China after Enes Kanter rips ‘brutal dictator’ Xi Jinping

Enes Kanter, Celtics, Xi Jinping

The Boston Celtics added Enes Kanter to their roster back in the offseason to give the team depth in the frontcourt. They probably did not expect that he’s also going to provide a profound geopolitical take in the first week of the 2021-22 NBA season that could end up hurting the NBA’s status in one of its biggest markets: China.

Kanter is a vocal critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but on Wednesday, he turned his attention to Chinese President Xi Jinping, whom he called a “brutal dictator” in a Twitter video, per Arjun Kharpal of CNBC:

In a video posted on Twitter, Kanter called Chinese President Xi Jinping a “brutal dictator” and said he supports Tibetan people’s “cause for freedom.” The NBA star, who has commented on political issues before, repeated the phrase “free Tibet” three times while wearing a t-shirt with the Dalai Lama on it.

“Under the Chinese government’s brutal rule, Tibetan peoples’ basic rights and freedoms are non-existent,” Kanter said. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not immediately available for comment.

Shortly after Kanter tweeted the video, Tencent Sports app pulled the highlights of Wednesday night’s game between the Celtics and the New York Knicks. Moreover, Boston’s next games are no longer showing on the stream’s schedule.

It remains to be seen whether the Celtics or the NBA will address the issue, but this could rapidly snowball. The league has been down on this road before. In 2019, Daryl Morey, who was then the Houston Rockets general manager, voiced his support for the Hong Kong protests, which led to the suspension of the Chinese broadcast of his team’s games.