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The Boston Celtics' Enes Kanter takes on the NBA and Nike re China, then Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai

Last week [Boston Celtics center Enes] Kanter posted a series of videos on Twitter where he called Chinese President Xi Jinping a “brutal dictator,” and asked the Chinese government to free Tibet and close down “the slave labor camps and free the Uyghur people.” Kanter also took his messages onto the court via custom sneakers designed by Chinese activist-artist Badiucao.

On Monday, Kanter was back on Twitter, this time accusing Nike for producing sneakers in labor camps. The next day, he invited Nike’s president Phil Knight and NBA legends Michael Jordan and Lebron James to visit the factories.
Just as with then Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey's 2019 tweet (since deleted) in support of pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong, Kanter's current team has faced a backlash, with games pulled from streaming in China.

Notes Sportico:
Born in Switzerland to Turkish parents, Kanter has been a vocal critic of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Kanter is a devout member of the Hizmet Movement and a follower of its leader, Fethullah Gulen, accused of the failed coup attempt in 2016. The Turkish government revoked Kanter’s Turkish passport in 2017.

There's a long and complicated back story to that. Note Kanter's op-ed in the Washington Post last June, Turkey’s international campaign of persecution and kidnappings must be stopped.

(Update: see critical columns from Dave Zirin, Enes Kanter Freedom: The NBA Authoritarian Against Authoritarianism, and Jemele Hill, Enes Kanter Freedom Is Letting Himself Be Used.)

And now the Nets

Kanter has since gone after Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai, whose notorious open letter on Facebook--after the Morey contretemps--defended the Chinese regime to the hilt.
The New York Post's Brian Lewis wrote, "It was about as nasty an attack as a league owner has ever gotten from a player, and that includes the Clippers fiasco with racist Donald Sterling."

That's a poor choice of words. Nasty means offensive or repugnant, and implies the criticism, however undiplomatic, wasn't grounded. With Sterling, and with Tsai, there's evidence.

No response from Tsai or the Nets. As NetsDaily put it:
Tsai, of course, is executive vice-chairman of Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant from which he derives much of his wealth. He’s noted the country’s achievements under CCP leadership that have ended poverty for hundreds of millions of Chinese.

That's true, but that utilitarian analysis, of course, leaves room for a lot of human rights abuses. A popular comment on NetsDaily was this, from "Stenpoint":

Joe Tsai is terrific as the owner of a sports franchise; he's generous and committed. Through his actions, he has also given a lot to the fans and the community. He is commendably a strong supporter of social justice in the US. He has directed or allowed the sensitive but decisive handling of covid and vaccination related to the team. For all these, he deserves praise. Two thumbs up.

But, with regard to human rights and social justice issues in China itself, is Tsai a "spineless puppet of China"? Yes. Two thumbs down.
What next?

From Newsweek, 11/11/21, Enes Kanter Won't Back Down Against China—The NBA Should Be Nervous:

For the NBA and the Celtics, Kanter's activism has had measurable consequences. Shortly after his first tweet in October, Chinese multimedia giant Tencent suspended all streams and broadcasts of his team's games. On China's main social media service, Weibo, a search for "Kanter" yielded no results from 2021, while the official Boston Celtics account has been peppered with abusive comments.

It means that if Kanter's relentless campaign gains momentum and receives support or participation from just one other player on another team, the impact could be immediate.

 Stay tuned.