Enes Kanter has been a powerful voice advocating against China's alleged maltreatment of Uyghur community, Tibet, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The Boston Celtics center has been been active on social media and in public displays to bring awareness to the issues he feels very strongly about.
The Celtics big man recently appeared on CNN in an interview with Christine Amanpour to divulge how the NBA has treated him amid his efforts to bring light to certain political issues. According to Kanter, it hasn't exactly been smooth sailing.
During the Celtics' first game of the season, an absolute thriller against the New York Knicks held in Madison Square Garden, he rocked a pair of sneakers that read “Free Tibet” on the sides. Kanter revealed that two men who claimed to work for the NBA approached him and urged him to take off the shoes.
“I remember it was our first game,” explained Kanter. “It was at Madison Square Garden and I wore ‘Free Tibet' shoes and went out there. I remember right before the game, there were two guys from the NBA came up to me and say, ‘You have to take your shoes off, we are begging you.”
Despite the NBA's requests to change his shoes during the nationally televised Celtics-Knicks game, he didn't oblige. Kanter was adamant that such a request was against his freedom of speech.
“There's 27 amendments and my first amendment is the greatest amendment – it's the freedom of speech. I was like, ‘I know my rights, you cannot take my rights away from me. I don't care if I get fined, I'm not going to take my shoes off.”
Kanter claims the NBA reps threatened him not just with fines, but with a potential ban. The Celtics center still didn't budge. Later on in the game, he said the two men reneged on their threats and apologized for their initial requests at halftime.
Enes Kanter also revealed that he wouldn't have been as empowered to speak out on issues such as these if not for the NBA. Whenever there are social issues that surface, NBA teams and the commissioner himself often issue statements on them, even supporting and encouraging its players to speak up.
“NBA made me do this,” claimed the Celtics center. “Because every time when one of the NBA teams or the commissioner came out and speak, they encourage players to talk about whatever they want to talk about. We are the giving freedom to our players to talk about all the injustices happening around the world, human rights abuse around the world, so they told me to do this, basically.”
In a sit down with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, Kanter said that he was open about abiding by any and all NBA rules. But both were in agreement that he did not break any. He followed up by asking if the league was supporting him in his hard stance against China. While Silver gave his support by word, Kanter admitted he wasn't exactly convinced based on the league's actions, or lack thereof.
“He told me, yes. We are supporting you against China. … I don't know how much that is true. Because if they were really supporting me, they would've put something out there. They would have put some kind of statement. I told Adam this too. Our team games, the Boston Celtics games are banned in China and this is unacceptable.”
Enes Kanter has never been one to stay quiet on social issues. The Celtics big man has been headstrong in going up against the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he firmly believes is responsible for suppressing democracy in his home country of Turkey.
Kanter says he receives thousands of death threats on the matter, and yet his will to speak out remains unwavering. Surely his displays against China have done nothing to cool off the threats against him.
Fascist Erdogan using his goons to keep sending me Death Threats.
This is ONLY some of the thousands of Death Threats I get every day.
I will NOT stop until every innocent soul in Turkish prisons is set free.
I’m in your head you tyrant @RTErdogan 🙌 RENT FREE pic.twitter.com/yKN15cuzGI
— Enes FREEDOM (@EnesFreedom) July 30, 2020
According to Kanter, his advocacies shouldn't be classified as political stands, he sees things a bit differently.
“People think I do politics. I don't do politics. I do human rights.”
Enes Kanter is one of several players in the NBA unafraid to take a stance, whatever the consequences may be.