Last week, Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter ripped the NBA during an interview with journalist Christiane Amanpour.
Amanpour first asked Kanter if the NBA was concerned about his outspokenness regarding Communist China — citing the kerfuffle with Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and Hong Kong.
Kanter replied that he stands “for justice and freedom” no “matter who it’s for or against,” then offered a comparison between how he was treated for speaking out against Turkey versus how he is allegedly being treated when it comes to China.
“I have been talking about all the human rights violations and injustice [happening] in Turkey for 10 years, and I did not get one phone call. I talk about China one day … I was getting a phone call once every two hours,” the basketball player said.
Kanter then told Amanpour that when he first donned his “Free Tibet” sneakers on the court in Madison Square Garden, “two guys from the NBA” approached him and said that he needed to remove his shoes. When the officials allegedly told him that he wasn’t actually breaking any rules, Kanter kept his sneakers on, and the officials apparently later apologized.
“[I’m] getting ready for my citizenship test, and I’ve been studying really hard, and there’s 27 amendments, and my First Amendment is the greatest amendment, is the freedom of speech,” Kanter reportedly told the officials.
Kanter also claimed that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told him that he and the organization were supportive of the player’s comments against China.
“I don’t know how much that is true because if they were really supporting me, they would have put something out there, they … would put like some kind of statement … because I told Adam this too: our team games, the Boston Celtics games, are banned in China, and this is unacceptable just because I talk about the human rights violence that happened over there,” Kanter said to Amanpour.
Enes Kanter has become an outspoken critic of Communist China and Chinese President Xi Jinping. On Friday, the Celtics players released a video defending the sovereignty of Taiwan, to which the president of Taiwan replied with a thankful message.
.@EnesKanter says that he doesn’t care about the cost that he may face from criticizing China. But are the NBA concerned? Kanter told me he has discussed it with commissioner Adam Silver. “I told him… am I breaking any rules?”
“He said, no, you’re not breaking any rules.” pic.twitter.com/v2pDNklsGS
— Christiane Amanpour (@camanpour) November 10, 2021
AMANPOUR: So, you say you do not mind about the money, about the influence, about anything, but what about the NBA? They must mind … because now, as we know, the Houston Rockets official who talked about Hong Kong a couple of years ago, they pulled all NBA from Chinese state television, and now Tencent, which is the streaming device, has actually pulled you all from the streaming device — and that is a lot of money. I think they pay … more than a billion dollars to the NBA. So, what do you say about that?
KANTER: I will just tell you this: I am for justice and freedom. It doesn’t matter who it’s for or against. I remember, you know, I have been talking about all the human rights violations and injustices [happening] in Turkey for 10 years, and I did not get one phone call. I talk about China one day … I was getting a phone call once every two hours.
AMANPOUR: Who were you getting phone calls from? Is it from the NBA? Have they said anything? Because they haven’t said anything publicly about you, as far as I can gather.
KANTER: I will tell you a story. I remember, it was the first time, it was our first game actually, it was in Madison Square Garden, and I wore “Free Tibet” shoes and went out there. I remember two, right before the game, it was two guys from the NBA came up to me and said, “You have to take your shoes off. We are begging you.” And I was like, “I’m sorry, what are you talking about?” He said, “You have to take those shoes off; we are getting so many calls,” and I was like, “Is there a rule that I’m breaking by wearing these shoes?” They said “no,” then I was like, “Okay I’m … getting ready for my citizenship test, and I’ve been studying really hard, and there’s 27 amendments, and my First Amendment is the greatest amendment, is the freedom of speech.” And I’m like, I know my rights; you cannot take my rights away from me. And I was like, “I don’t care if I get fined; I’m not going to take my shoes off.” And they told me, “We are not talking about fine, we are talking about getting banned.” I’m like, “Listen, I don’t care if you — whoever is your bosses, go tell them I’m ready to get banned. If I’m breaking any rules, tell me; I’ll be the first one to follow the rules, but if I’m not breaking any rules…”
Obviously, they came and apologized in half time, and they said “Sorry,” but I was like, “I’m not breaking any rules; I’m gonna do what I’m doing.”
AMANPOUR: So, do you think the NBA, therefore, has come to a different kind of understanding of all of this? Because back when the Houston Rockets official Daryl Morey, he tweeted, all he did was tweet in support of pro-freedom and pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, and the NBA didn’t back Morey.
But subsequently, in the intervening time, they have said the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees, and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way. So, you must be satisfied with their stance.
KANTER: Let me just tell you this first. NBA made me do this, because every time, when one of the NBA teams or the commissioner came out and speak, they say, we are encouraging our players to talk about whatever they want to talk about; we are giving the freedom to our players to talk about all the injustices happening around the world, all the human rights abuse around the world. So, they give me this right; they told me to do this, basically.
But the other thing is obviously I sit down with people from the NBA, and I even sit down with Adam Silver, and had a conversation, and I told him, Adam, listen, am I breaking any rules? Because if I’m breaking any rules, please tell me, I’ll be the first one to follow every NBA rule because NBA gave me what I have and I don’t want to break any kind of rules that you guys have put on. He said, “No, you’re not breaking any rules.” Well, I told them, is the NBA against China? Is NBA and Adam Silver and the all the organizations … all the teams and owners, are they supporting Enes Kanter? He told me, “Yes, we are supporting you against China.”
So that is one. The second thing is, you know, I don’t know how much that is true because if they were really supporting me, they would have put something out there, they … would put like some kind of statement … because I told Adam this, too: our team games, the Boston Celtics games, are banned in China, and this is unacceptable just because I talk about the human rights violence [that are happening] over there. People think I do politics; I don’t do politics. I do human rights.
AMANPOUR: I just want to make sure, you’re not saying the NBA gave you the green light to say this stuff; you’re just saying that their rules are that freedom of expression is an American right, or are you saying they specifically gave you the green light? … So not specifically, but just the general commitment to freedom of speech, right?
KANTER: Right, yes.