In a startling move, former NBA player Enes Kanter claimed Tuesday during a Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) hearing that he has lost roughly $50 million in salaries and possible endorsements due to speaking out against China’s repressive tactics against the Uyghur Muslim minority and other victims of human rights abuses in the region.
Kanter, the former Boston Celtics center, told lawmakers attending the hearing titled “Corporate Complicity: Subsidizing the PRC’s Human Rights Violations,” that he had decided to take a stand for what is right and that consequently ended his career with the NBA in a “very brutal way.”
At one point while speaking about his choice to come forward, Kanter remarked, “freedom is not free, and it’s going to come with some consequences, but someone had to stand up for the innocent around the world, no matter how much money or business I have lost because of it.”
It began when Kanter attended a basketball camp in New York and a parent asked him why he had not spoken out against the repressive acts of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). At that point, he began researching the CCP’s human rights abuses in earnest after speaking to a concentration camp survivor who detailed extreme torture, gang rape, forced sterilization, and abortion methods she endured.
Faced with potential risks associated with supporting a global boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, Kanter did not waver in his criticisms against the Chinese government. He even went as far as to call the nation’s leader Xi Jinping a “brutal dictator.”
China and multiple Chinese brands are major sponsors of the NBA, and shortly after Kanter’s comments, Boston Celtics games were pulled from Chinese media. However, this did not stop him from speaking up against human rights abuses in the country and on one occasion wearing shoes emblazoned with the words ‘Free Tibet’ at an NBA game.
Kanter renounced his Turkish citizenship in 2021 and became a US citizen. However, the Turkish government revoked his passport in 2017 because of his political views.
Kanter told lawmakers he was devoted to standing up for those in need of help around the world, showing a brave face to speak out against the global giant of China and any injustices found around the world.
“My entire life I worked so hard to achieve my NBA dream, and I made it. However, because I wanted to stand up for what is right, my career ended in a very brutal way,” he said.
Kanter’s actions stand as a testament to the importance of speaking up for those that are unable to do so in nations where repressive tactics are employed against their citizens. His actions may have cost him millions of dollars, yet it stands as an example of standing up for what is right.