“XI LINPING and The Chinese Communist Party. Someone must teach you a lesson. I will never apologize for speaking truthfully. You cannot buy me. I will not be scared by you. You cannot silence me. Let’s get it going! Kanter ,, a Turkish activist with a history of activism, tweeted “Thank you!”
Kanter wore the red-and-white sneakers on the bench during Sunday’s game at the Houston Rockets.
The shoes depict Kanter with Winnie the Pooh’s severed head like a basketball. They also show Pooh’s head on top of two tanks that are bearing down upon the NBA player as a tribute to the 1989 Tiananmen square massacre.
The images were tweeted in China and included the hashtags #FreedomShoes & #XinnieThePooh.
Celtics President of Operations Brad Stevens defended Kanter on Friday, saying during a weekly appearance on FM radio station 98.5 that he had spoken with Kanter and that “we’re always going to support any of our players and their right to freedom of speech and expression.”
In an apparent act state-pressuredcensorship, Tencent, the NBA’s Chinese media partnership, removed all Celtics NBA games from its streaming platforms. This happened after Kanter donned “Free Tibet” sneakers to the team’s season opening against the New York Knicks.
That same day, Kanter uploaded a viral video to Twitter in which he accused China’s leader of perpetuating “cultural genocide against Tibetans” and wore a Tshirt with their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
Neither Tencent nor the NBA have made a statement regarding Kanter ,, making it unclear if the censorship stemmed from the video, the sneakers or both.
Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at a news briefing Thursday that Kanter‘s remarks “were not worth refuting.”
The Washington Times reported Kanter increased his criticisms on Friday. He was wearing a “Freedom for Uyghurs” T-shirt in a video where he stated that the Chinese Communist Party’s agenda had made the majority-Muslim autonomous area of northwest China an “open-air prison” with slave labor camps and “political education” for dissenters.
Kanter, who was indicted in Turkey in 2018 on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization, has called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “the Hitler of our century” and appeared with Democratic lawmakers at a November 2019 press conference to criticize Mr. Erdogan’s visit to the Trump White House.
Despite the Celtics support Kanter by the NBA, and the Celtics support of players’ activism it is not clear if the league will allow one of its teams to be banned from Chinese media.
In Oct 2019, The NBA had to apologize to Chinese leaders following the tweet by Daryl Morey, then general manager of the Rockets, that he supported pro-democracy protesters from Hong Kong at an exhibition game played in China.
When league star LeBron James called Morey “misinformed”, backlash from fans forced him back to his original comments.
Kanter, who remained on the bench throughout Sunday’s game at Houston, has much less clout with the league than James.
China banned images comparing Xi Jinping with Winnie the Pooh. This is a popular protest meme and of the Tiananmen Square massacre by pro-democracy demonstrators.