China blocks Celtics games after Kanter's public support of Tibet
After Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter's recent comments in support of the Free Tibet movement, Chinese broadcaster Tencent removed all Celtics programming from its upcoming schedule and highlight archives, according to The New York Times' Raymond Zhong and Sopan Deb.
Kanter, 29, released a video prior to Wednesday's season opener in which he criticized the Chinese government for "erasing Tibetan identity and culture," while calling President Xi Jinping a "brutal dictator."
In the video, Kanter wore a shirt featuring the likeness of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. The Dalai Lama's representatives acknowledged the NBA veteran's show of support.
"We are thankful to Enes (Kanter), NBA player for speaking in support of Tibet," the office of the Dalai Lama told ESPN in a statement. "In a two minutes video message he summed up the existential threat faced by the Tibetans under Chinese communist rule. Every word that he said is true."
During the Celtics' loss to the New York Knicks, Kanter wore shoes customized by Badiucao, a Chinese dissident, featuring the words "Free Tibet," per ESPN.
The Celtics are now the second NBA team whose presence in China has been significantly muted. Games featuring the Philadelphia 76ers are also currently unavailable to stream on Tencent.
Though not publicly confirmed, the unavailability of 76ers games are widely viewed to be a result of the team's employment of executive Daryl Morey, who, while serving as general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong prior to the 2019-20 season.
Morey's tweet sparked months of tension between the NBA and its Chinese business partners - including the vast majority of game broadcasts being removed from state-run distributor CCTV until midway through the 2020 Finals - resulting in a significant financial shortfall for the world's preeminent professional basketball league.
Though the broadcast of NBA games has resumed in part through Tencent, commissioner Adam Silver conceded in his annual preseason press conference earlier this week that "it's unclear whether we'll be back on CCTV television in China this year."