The Boston Celtics games were abruptly removed from the Chinese Internet on Thursday after a team center Aeneas Kanter said on social media that the country’s leader Xi Jinping was a “brutal dictator”, citing his government’s repressive policies in Tibet. Used to give
This incident could spell new trouble for the NBA in China. The league has millions of devoted fans, but has also spent two years improving its image in the country after the manager of the Houston Rockets tweeted in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong in 2019.
That tweet by Daryl Morey, now an executive with the Philadelphia 76ers, was quickly deleted, though not before starting an uproar in China. Sponsors in the country severed ties and the state-run broadcaster ceased broadcasting the games, leading to a financial fallout that the league estimated was worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Geopolitical tensions and rising nationalism have made China a minefield for multinationals, whose access to the country’s 1.4 billion consumers often depends on not taking the “wrong” stance on issues such as Beijing’s rule in Hong Kong, Tibet and Xinjiang. Is.
An NBA representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
in a video In what was posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on Wednesday, Kanter spoke in front of the camera for nearly three minutes and spoke about the “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 eroding Tibetan identity and culture.”
As of Thursday, recent Celtics games were marked as unavailable for replay through Tencent, the Chinese internet giant that has partnered with the NBA to stream its games in the country. Tencent Sports’ website also indicated that the upcoming Celtics games would not be livestreamed.
A Tencent spokesperson declined to comment.
A Celtics fan account on Chinese social platform Weibo announced that it would immediately stop posting about the team.
The account told its 615,000 Weibo followers: “Strongly oppose any behavior that harms national harmony and the dignity of the motherland!”
Tencent Sports’ website also indicated Thursday that it would not be streaming upcoming games with the Philadelphia 76ers, where Morey is now president of basketball operations.
Kanter of Turkish heritage has been a vocal critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkish prosecutors have called for Kantor’s arrest, and his Turkish passport revoked. He has expressed concern that Turkish agents may kill him overseas.
Elsie Cheno Contributed reporting.