Chinese video-streaming giant Tencent cut the live broadcast of the Boston Celtics' game against the New York Knicks amid Celtics center Enes Kanter's recent comments supporting Tibetan independence.
Kanter shared a video of himself wearing a t-shirt depicting the Dalai Lama-- the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader viewed by many within Beijing as a dangerous separatist -- on his verified Twitter account Wednesday in which he referred to General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Xi Jinping as "a brutal dictator."
"My message for the Chinese government is, 'free Tibet,'" Kanter said in the video. "Tibet belongs to Tibetans. I'm here to add my voice and speak out about what is happening in Tibet. Under the Chinese government's brutal rule Tibetan people's basic rights and freedoms are nonexistent."
China seized Tibet in 1950 and it's illegal to support Tibetan independence within the communist republic.
The NBA has been at the center of several political controversies in China as Beijing demands foreign businesses adhere to the republic's political positions in order to access China's populous market, which remains the NBA's largest internationally.
In 2019, then-Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey publicly supported Hong Kong pro-democracy protests, leading to fallout in China for the Rockets that followed him to his current team, the Philadelphia 76ers, upon joining the franchise last November.
Tencent's app currently has upcoming games marked for live broadcast for all NBA teams excluding those involving the Celtics and 76ers, which will be reported by text and photo, according to the Washington Post.
China Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin addressed Kanter's criticism during a news conference on Thursday, accusing the center of “clout-chasing, trying to get attention with Tibet-related issues.”
“Tibet is part of China,” Wang said via the Washington Post. “We welcome unbiased friends upholding objectivity across the world to Tibet. In the meanwhile, we never accept the attacks and smears on Tibet’s development.”
On Thursday, a Celtics China fan account on the Chinese social media appWeibowith more than 600,000 followers announced it planned to suspend sharing updates on the team due to a certain NBA player's social media stance.
“From now on, the homepage will no longer report any information about the Boston Celtics, and our Weibo will stop updating!” read the post from the account, Celtics Weibo Express via the Washington Post. “Resolutely resist any behavior that undermines national harmony and the dignity of the motherland!”
A sports blogger under the Weibo account "Brother Qiang Says Stuff" -- who has more than 4 million followers -- said there should be zero tolerance for Kanter's comments, while others called for a boycott of the NBA altogether.
Kanter planned to play in Wednesday night's game with "Free Tibet" and an image of a man self-immolating -- a desperate form of protest taken by Tibetans in the past -- designed by prominent overseas Chinese political cartoonist Badiucao, but was never substituted into the Celtics' 138-134 double-overtime loss.
Kanter has been outspoken on political issues for several years, specifically those in his native Turkey, which prompted Turkish authorities to seek his arrest in 2019.
In a June 2017 opinion column for the Washington Post, Kanter revealed he was forced to flee Indonesia -- where he was hosting a basketball camp for children -- after he was notified by his manager that Turkish intelligence agents were in the area attempting to capture him.
Kanter has also urged U.S. lawmakers to take measures to support human rights in his home country during recent years.