A player for the Boston Celtics spoke out Wednesday in support of independence for Tibet while slamming Chinese President Xi Jinping as a "brutal dictator" — and the team's games have quickly been pulled from the Chinese internet.
After Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter on Wednesday released a video on social media slamming Xi Jinping and calling for China to "free Tibet," by Thursday the Celtics' recent games weren't available to stream in Chinese via the internet company Tencent, The New York Times reports. Tencent also cut a live broadcast of a game between the Celtics and the New York Knicks after the video was released, and Tencent's app suggested there wouldn't be live broadcasts of the team's upcoming games, The Washington Post reports.
In the video, which Kanter addresses to the "brutal dictator of China, Xi Jinping," he says that "under the Chinese government's brutal rule, Tibetan people's basic rights and freedoms are nonexistent," adding, "Tibet belongs to the Tibetan people, and I hope and believe Tibet will achieve independence."
The incident comes two years after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey sparked a firestorm in China by expressing support for Hong Kong protesters in a tweet he subsequently deleted, prompting China to suspend broadcasts of NBA games. Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James criticized Morey at the time as "misinformed," suggesting he didn't fully consider the "ramifications" of his words. Morey is now president of basketball operations for the Philadelphia 76ers, and Tencent also isn't streaming that team's games in China, the Times notes.
Kanter, who has been vocal in criticizing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as well, also shared on Wednesday a photo of a pair of sneakers that said "Free Tibet," writing, "I stand with my Tibetan brothers and sisters, and I support their calls for freedom."