Enes Kanter Takes On China With Shoes And Tweets

Enes Kanter Takes On China With Shoes And Tweets

Enes Kanter Takes On China With Shoes And Tweets

The biggest man in the NBA has taken control of the conversation regarding China, and it isn’t Lebron James. It’s Enes Kanter.

After the abject groveling of the NBA, Lebron James, and Adam Silver after Daryl Morey DARED to express his opinion on Hong Kong’s freedom, it was obvious that it was going to take a big name and even bigger… basketballs… to stand up to China. Especially when the NBA was desperate to keep that sweet Chinese yuan rolling in.

Enter the uncancellable Enes Kanter. Why do I refer to him as “uncancellable?” Because Enes Kanter has known real oppression, has seen the real consequences of speaking out against dictators, and refuses to sit silently. As a native of Turkey, and a Muslim, Kanter spoke out against the Turkish president and strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish government then arrested, tried, and convicted Kanter’s father on charges of allegedly being involved in a failed coup, and sentenced him to 15 years in prison. Kanter himself can never go back to Turkey, or he faces arrest. And yet, Kanter kept speaking out against Erdogan. His father was released in 2020 after the charges were dropped, but Enes Kanter has not been able to see or talk to his family in years, because Erdogan still wants him arrested.

Kanter now plays for the Boston Celtics, and after last year’s on-court activism, the NBA could not now tell Enes Kanter that he can’t speak out on behalf of Uyghur Muslims being locked up in concentration camps in Xinjiang. So that is what he has been doing, quite obviously and quite publicly. How? With pairs of artistically decorated game shoes that say exactly what Kanter means, and blasting out those images of his shoes on Twitter along with his opinions about China, the plight of the Uyghurs, and the cause of freedom. After these videos on Twitter and the pictures of his shoes, Xi Jinping probably wants Enes Kanter silenced as much as Erdogan does.


Kanter also has “Free Tibet” shoes, and has posted a video in support of Tibetan freedom. In short, he is determined to be a thorn in Xi’s side, and he isn’t afraid to stand up to China.

Which meant that China retaliated the only way they could. They pulled the Boston Celtics off the internet in China.

In a video that was posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on Wednesday, Kanter spoke into the camera for nearly three minutes and decried what he called a “cultural genocide” in Tibet.”

“I say, ‘Shame on the Chinese government,’” he said, wearing a T-shirt with the image of the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing considers a criminal separatist. “The Chinese dictatorship is erasing Tibetan identity and culture.”

Another social media post by Kanter on Wednesday showed off sneakers emblazoned with Tibetan flag motifs and the words “Free Tibet.”

By Thursday, recent Celtics games were marked as unavailable for replay through Tencent, the Chinese internet giant that has partnered with the N.B.A. to stream its games in the country. The website for Tencent Sports also indicated that upcoming Celtics games would not be livestreamed.”

Kanter’s real-life courage is getting noticed by those who aren’t in the mainstream media trying to keep China happy.

The Boston Celtics organization says that they are not trying to silence him. Perhaps they learned something from the Daryl Morey backlash?

Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens offered the organization’s first message of support for Enes Kanter as the center blasted China’s Xi Jinping over human rights issues.”

Stevens told 98.5 The Sports Hub on Friday he spoke with Kanter about the first video in which Kanter accused Xi of trying to erase the Tibetan culture.”

“My conversation with Enes was real short and sweet, and that is we’re always going to support any of our players and their right to freedom of speech and expression. And I think in my experience with the Celtics and the NBA, that’s the way it’s been and that’s the way it’ll continue to be,” Stevens said, via the Boston Globe.”

Kanter wore sneakers with “Free Tibet” emblazoned on them during Boston’s double overtime loss to the New York Knicks. He didn’t play in that game.”

Did he not play in that game as punishment? It’s a fair question to pose. Kanter also called out other Muslim athletes during his video about the treatment of the Uyghurs in China.

Kanter attacked China over Tibet and blasted the country for its reported torture of Uyghur Muslims. He also called out Muslim leaders and athletes to speak up more about the atrocities being committed in the country.”

“I’m talking about you, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Saudi King Salman, United Arab Emirates Mohammed bin Zayed, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi,” Kanter said. “It’s shameful and sad how you’ve decided to prioritize money and business with China over human rights. You call yourselves Muslims, but you are just using that for show. You simply do not care about people.”

“And this goes out to fellow Muslim athletes as well. Why are you staying silent? Mohammed Salah, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Amir Khan … Say something. Do something. Speak up. Your silence, your inaction is complicit.”

This is a man of character who is refusing to back down. And on Sunday evening, Enes Kanter threw down the gauntlet on Xi Jinping.


Your eyes don’t deceive you. Those are Winnie the Pooh heads on those shoes. For those who are not aware, Xi Jinping was once compared to Winnie the Pooh on Twitter in 2013. The end result was a shining example of the Streisand Effect – the more you draw attention to something small, the more it multiplies. The Chinese Communist Party has actually banned all Winnie the Pooh merchandise and cartoons, because NOTHING is allowed to undermine the image and authority of their leader. Which means that Kanter’s use of Winnie the Pooh on these shoes is nothing more than a targeted hit on the image and authority of Xi Jinping.

Can someone do a wellness check on Lebron James? Also, I believe this now means that the NBA is going to have to take a side.


What happens now? The NBA would probably love to ignore this, but neither Kanter nor China is going to let them. Kanter shows no sign of backing down, or being intimidated into silence. And China may decide to yank all NBA basketball off their internet, which would mean the NBA would lose out on that money. This issue has now been brewing for two years, and the NBA is going to have to make the hard choices that they should have made when Daryl Morey tweeted “Free Hong Kong.” Is the NBA going to tell a Muslim basketball player to be silent about the oppression and torture of other Muslims, because they need Chinese money? Or are they going to find a backbone and stand up to China, even when it costs them? Do they believe that Colin Kaepernick/Nike slogan or not? We shall see.

Featured image: Enes Kanter via Wikimedia Commons, cropped, Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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