Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter Freedom, the NBA’s loudest critic of Communist China, blasted an owner of the Golden State Warriors for dismissing allegations of human rights abuses against Muslim Uyghurs.
The Turkish big man, who changed his last name from “Kanter” to “Freedom” after being sworn in as a U.S. citizen in late November, said on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that he could not believe part-owner Chamith Palihapitiya said in a podcast that “nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs” in China’s Xinjiang Province.
“I was very angry, very disgusted, and very disappointed,” Kanter Freedom said, adding that he couldn’t “focus on the game” the Celtics played that night after hearing about the comments.
Clad in a “Free the Uyghurs” T-shirt, Kanter Freedom said he believed Palihapitiya was advancing Communist Party “propaganda” and “using social justice to make money for his company.”
“I mean, you look at the Uyghur people. What’s happened to the Uyghurs is one of the worst human rights abuses in the world today, and there’s a genocide happening while we’re talking right now,” Kanter Freedom said. “And he’s going out there and saying, ‘I could care less.’ It’s a shame, and it is disgusting.”
In a statement, the Warriors said the billionaire Silicon Valley venture capitalist, a former AOL executive, “does not speak for” the team.
On Monday night, Palihapitiya tweeted that while “re-listening” to his podcast from that morning, he recognized that he came across as “lacking in empathy.”
“To be clear, my belief is that human rights matter, whether in China, the United States, or elsewhere,” he wrote. “Full stop.”
The apology did not placate Kanter Freedom.
The player, whose social activism led last fall to a television blackout of all Celtics games in China, had already tweeted a video Monday afternoon of Palihapitiya’s podcast comment that “the rest of us don’t care” about the alleged persecution of the majority-Muslim ethnic group of 1.8 million people, who live in an autonomous part of northwest China.
Despite the NBA’s claim that “we stand for justice,” he wrote in a comment on the video that the Warriors owner is among “those who sell their soul for money.”
“When genocides happen, it is people like this that let it happen,” Kanter Freedom wrote in his tweet. “Shame!”
Born in Switzerland to Turkish parents, Kanter Freedom has a history of political activism, and Turkey has revoked his citizenship for his accusations of censorship of free speech.
His persistent criticism of China, supported by the Celtics organization and popular with fans, has challenged the NBA’s close business ties with the Communist nation. Kanter Freedom has even offered to “educate” LeBron James, the league’s star who once made public comments saying people criticizing China’s crackdown in Hong Kong need to be better educated.
Throughout the current NBA season, the Celtics big man has worn game shoes with banned political images that criticize China’s Communist leaders over their treatment of the Uyghurs and of Tibetan Buddhists who follow the exiled Dalai Lama.
In an Oct. 22 video that addressed Chinese leader Xi Jinping as “heartless dictator,” the big man wore a “freedom for Uyghur” T-shirt while delivering a three-minute rant against China’s treatment of Uyghurs.
“There is a genocide happening right now,” Kanter Freedom said in the video, alleging human rights abuses that he said include “political reeducation” for Muslims in “slave labor camps.”