Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter, who has long been in the news for his strong criticism of the Chinese Communist regime’s human rights violations, said in an interview on Monday, Nov. 22 that he began receiving a series of death threats to the point that the FBI offered him a panic button to protect him.
From singling out Nike for posing as a company in favor of ‘social justice’ in the United States but at the same time using slave labor in Xinjiang province where the CCP persecutes Uighurs, to criticizing Los Angeles Lakers player James LeBron for choosing money over morality and even denouncing the CCP’s forced removal of organs from living people by wearing sneakers with designs illustrating the abuses, Kanter has become a hero to those seeking to hold Beijing accountable for its crimes.
What motivated Kanter to get involved in raising awareness
When Kanter was asked what his motive was for risking his job and putting his safety at risk, the player claimed he had no political aims but considered himself a human rights activist. Kanter explained what motivated him.
“There are so many athletes, actors, singers, and rappers out there that are scared to call out these authoritarian regimes because they care too much about their endorsement deal, they care too much about money and for them is money over principles and morals,” the player said.
“Someone had to be the voice of all those innocent people out there who don’t have a voice… so I am just going out there and say it like it is,” the NBA star added.
How it all started with the NBA
He recalled the first time he faced some pressure from the NBA officials and his club.
On his first NBA game, he went to play with sneakers that had the phrase ‘Free Tibet’ on them.
Two NBA officials approached him and begged him to take them off before playing. He responded by asking them back if he was breaking any rule, to which they replied no, but said something bad could happen, like being banned from playing.
Kanter was upset at that moment because he recalled just receiving the U.S. citizenship and among the 27 Amendments he was promised, the first one, the most important one, freedom of speech, was being trampled upon.
So, he said to those two NBA officials, if I am not breaking any rules, I am not taking my shoes off.
The risks of challenging authoritarian regimes
Kanter, who has a long history of raising awareness about abuses by authoritarian regimes, said he has spoken out before and nothing ever happened. The first day he took aim at Beijing, his phone started ringing every two hours.
When the anchor asked him if he works with anyone or if he represented any groups or non-governmental organizations, the player replied that he works with many human rights activists, artists and others who do not wish to be named for fear of reprisals from a regime like China’s.
“It just happened two days ago, we actually finished our game and right after the game the security team came up to me and said ‘Listen we just had a death threat towards you and we need to solve the problem, police are investigating,’” Kanter recalled.
Surprised by the response, the reporter asked him if his club or the authorities knew about the threats.
“Yes, I work with the local police, some investigators, and the FBI is aware of what is going on, and I have actually sat down with the FBI,” Kanter explained. “One day the FBI came to my hotel room and set up this thing called panic button and said: ‘Whenever you feel uncomfortable, push that button and we will be there in three minutes.’”
While Kanter said he feels safe in the United States even though there’s always the possibility of something bad happening to him every time he leaves his home, he trusts the Boston Police Department and the FBI. But outside the country, ‘things can get very ugly,’ the basketball player lamented.