The National Basketball Association (NBA) has apparently been in timeout long enough after 17 months of China Central Television (CCTV) blacking out the league. Its games are back on CCTV in the world’s largest market, and the one player who took a stand against the authoritarian Chinese government, coincidentally, is now out of the league.
Enes Kanter Freedom, born in Switzerland to Turkish parents, is already persona non grata in Turkey after speaking out against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his purge of political enemies after a failed coup. Just weeks before the NBA was restored to prominence for China’s 1.4 billion strong market, Freedom was cut by the Boston Celtics.
Freedom, who added a new last name after becoming a U.S. citizen last year, had lashed out at LeBron James in tweeting “Money over Morals for the ‘King’.” James, of course, is an outspoken critic of everything that runs counter to his wokeness — right up until it runs counter to his bank account.
The four-time champion’s hypocrisy was put on vibrant display 17 months ago, just before the league was banished into Chinese purgatory over an executive’s unthinkable mistake. Then-Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s grave faux pas? His error in judgment?
Having the gall to share an image supporting Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, thus taking a small stand against the genocidal communist regime.
Morey, who is now GM of the Philadelphia 76ers, was criticized just this week by LA Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue after Morey tweeted about an NBA game. “Should he (Morey) really be tweeting anything right now?” Lue posted just two days before the first league game on CCTV since Morey shared the pro-Hong Kong image. “Last time he tweeted, he cost the NBA a billion dollars.”
Speaking of numbers, the State Department says as many as 2 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in western China are being held in camps and denied basic human rights. But that’s small potatoes as long as the yuan keeps flowing into the league.
While its games are on Chinese television and sneakers and jerseys are sold there, the NBA is happy to toe the line. Which begs an interesting question — when will Enes Kanter Freedom get his own Nike commercial?