Dissemination of the Boston Celtics of National Basketball Association (NBA) was cut in China, after comments made by one of the team’s players about Tibetan sovereignty.
Describing Chinese President and Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping as a “brutal dictator”, “Celtics center player” Enes Kanter detailed that he had a message for the national leader and his “henchmen”.
“Under the brutal regime of the Chinese government, the fundamental rights and freedoms of the Tibetan people are non-existent,” he noted.
A separate Tweet from the player, tagged with the hashtag #FreeTibet, read: “Over 150 Tibetans have burned themselves to death !! – hoping that such an act would raise awareness in Tibet. I stand alongside my Tibetan brothers and sisters and support their calls for freedom.
Tibet has been an integral part of the People’s Republic of China since its annexation in 1959, after which the region’s status has become a major cause of protest and controversy.
Following Kanter’s remarks, the Celtics’ clash against the New York Knicks was cut by the diffuser Tencent – which at the beginning of the year strengthened its partnership with the NBA via its Tencent Music Entertainment (TME) – while the central government also issued a response.
Asked about Kanter, Wang wenbin, a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, said: “The player you mentioned was looking for influence, trying to draw attention to the issues related to Tibet.
He added, “Tibet is part of China. We will never accept these attacks to discredit the development and progress of Tibet.
The loss of Chinese broadcasting revenue could be a blow to the Celtics’ finances, as NBA operations in the country are worth around $ 5 billion, while viewership figures for individual games have hit 200 million.
The franchise also received a lot of criticism on Chinese social media, with Weibo – a popular social media platform often compared to Twitter – suspending the player’s account.
A Celtics fan page on the platform said, “Any information about the team will cease to appear on this Weibo. Any behavior that undermines the harmony of the nation and the dignity of the homeland, we resist resolutely.
The controversy builds on the damage done to the NBA’s relationship with Chinese authorities in 2019, when then-Houston Rockets general manager Daryl morey tweeted his support for anti-Beijing protesters in Hong Kong.
As a result, Tenecet pulled all NBA coverage for a year, but did not air any games featuring the Philadelphia 76ers after Morey was named the team’s general manager.
Public broadcaster CCTV has also withdrawn from coverage NBA China Games between the the Los Angeles Lakers and brooklyn nets. Following the controversies, the league estimated it lost up to $ 400 million in the 2019/20 season.