A few days ago, the Houston Rockets traded for Enes Kanter Freedom and subsequently released him. Kanter Freedom has been unapologetically outspoken over China’s human rights abuses as well as the league’s hypocrisy over putting domestic political issues at the forefront of its messaging while turning a blind eye to Chinese labor camps. For taking a political stance, Kanter Freedom was silenced.
Colin Kaepernick was not available for comment.
In recent months, Kanter Freedom has increasingly been a thorn in the side of the NBA, which is increasingly dependent on China for both cheap Nike labor, a sizable audience, and market expansion. In 2019, China already accounted for 10% of the league’s total revenue and was expected to be the main source of future growth. In addition to that, the spinoff NBA China was valued at over $5 billion – fully half of what the American NBA was worth despite being far newer. In short, China is the future of NBA revenues. Enes Kanter Freedom couldn’t be allowed to speak.
The dichotomy of elevating and downplaying political narratives could not be more contrasted by the messages of Kanter Freedom and his former employer. Whereas the league panders to identity politics here and kowtows to Xi abroad, Kanter Freedom has been one of the few players willing to call out the CCP for its endless human rights abuses and other players’ hypocrisies for condemning imagined systemic racism in America while ignoring actual genocide in China.
In just the past year, Kanter has worn variations of shoes with the message of “Free Uygher.” He went after LeBron James for his phony concern over cultural issues, tweeting “Money over Morals for the King. Sad & disgusting how these athletes pretend they care about social justice.” More recently, he condemned the International Olympic Committee for being in bed with the Chinese communists.
He also famously posted this longer video on Twitter, which goes after Xi Jinping’s enslavement of the Chinese Uyghur population and demands their release:
Heartless Dictator of China,
XI JINPING and the Communist Party of China.
I am calling you out in front of the whole world.
Close down the SLAVE labor camps and free the UYGHUR people!
— Enes FREEDOM (@EnesFreedom) October 22, 2021
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Framed differently, the comparison between the media, cultural, and political treatments of Enes Kanter Freedom and Colin Kapernick ought to serve as the exemplar for fake media and cultural narrating. Kaepernick made millions in a league of other black men, and has gone on to make even more money since initiating his entry into the racial grievance industry. He is celebrated in commercials and has deals with both Disney and Netflix to produce garbage propaganda about his supposed cause. If he is oppressed, then sign me up.
Kanter Freedom, on the other hand, stands to lose future contracts while still in his twenties and averaging fourteen rebounds in just thirty-six minutes this year. Of the two, it’s obvious who has taken a real stand.
And perhaps it’s merely a coincidence, but the Rockets are the same team for whom then-general manager Daryl Maroney worked and was forced to delete tweets showing support for 2019’s Hong Kong freedom protests.
Or is it? Breitbart had an interesting angle in their coverage of the trade and release. They reported:
“It’s not uncommon for teams to trade players and then waive them while managing their caps and dumping salary. However, the Houston Rockets, the most popular team in China, orchestrating a trade that lands them the league’s most outspoken China critic and then cutting him hours later, to the glee of the Chinese media, is just a little too perfect.”
Fans of not just the NBA, but of human rights, should hope that Kanter Freedom finds a new or bigger platform for his message. We need more like him, and less like Kaepernick.