Boston Celtics Games Blocked in China After Kanter Calls for a ‘Free Tibet’

Photo: John Raoux/AP

Broadcasts of Boston Celtics games will likely not be available in China for the foreseeable future following recent comments made by Celtics center Enes Kanter in support of Tibet. Tencent, the Chinese tech company that partnered with the NBA to show the league’s games in China, pulled the live broadcast of the Celtics’ Wednesday night double-overtime thriller against the New York Knicks, Kanter’s former team, the Washington Post reports. In 2019, the NBA announced that it had agreed to a five-year expansion with Tencent that would have the company airing NBA programming and games through the 2024-25 season.

On Wednesday, Kanter recorded a nearly three-minute video posted both to Twitter and Facebook where he wore a shirt featuring a photo of the Dalai Lama, railed against the Chinese government, advocated for Tibet to be independent, and called the Chinese leader Xi Jinping “brutal dictator.”

“Only the Tibetan people should decide the future of Tibet, 100 percent. Tibet belongs to the Tibetan people, and I hope and believe that Tibet will achieve independence,” Kanter said, later continuing: “Brutal dictator of China, Xi Jinping, I have a message for you and your henchmen. I will say it again, again, and again, loud and clear. I hope you hear me: Free Tibet. Free Tibet. Free Tibet.”

Kanter is known for being outspoken about political and social causes and has been especially critical of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the president of Turkey, Kanter’s home country.

This isn’t the first time that the league has experienced tension in its business relationship with China. In 2019, Daryl Morey, the then-general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted in support of the Hong Kong’s anti-Beijing protests, causing the team to distance themselves from the post and the league to do damage control. (Morey later apologized for the tweet.) Fortune has previously reported that games featuring the Philadelphia 76ers, where Morey now works as president of basketball operations, have also been blocked from airing in China.

Celtics Games Blocked in China After Kanter Supports Tibet