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Enes Kanter of the Boston Celtics wore shoes featuring the words ‘Free China’ while on the bench during his team’s game against the Houston Rockets on Sunday. Photo: Enes Kanter/Instagram

NBA player Enes Kanter wears ‘Free China’ shoes featuring image of Winnie the Pooh during game

  • The Turkish NBA player continues to protest against Chinese President Xi Jinping wearing shoes made by dissident artist Badiucao
  • Kanter’s latest pair of shoes feature Kanter holding the head of Winnie the Pooh along with a Tiananmen Square drawing

Enes Kanter continued his campaign of criticism against China and its president Xi Jinping on Sunday when he wore another controversial pair of shoes, this time with the words “Free China” emblazoned on them, while on the bench for the Boston Celtics against the Houston Rockets in Texas.

It is the third time in the past week Kanter, who did not play in the game, wore shoes featuring an anti-China message. The shoes have been created in conjunction with Shanghai-born, Australia-based dissident cartoonist Badiucao, who had a show in Hong Kong cancelled in 2018.
The first pair, worn on Wednesday, featured a message which read  “Free Tibet”. The second, worn on Friday, read  “Free Uyghur”. The latest pair featured an image of Kanter holding the head of cartoon character Winnie the Pooh.

“Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party, someone has to teach you a lesson,” wrote Kanter on an accompanying social media post with photos of the shoes. “I will never apologise for speaking the truth. You can not buy me. You can not scare me. You can not silence me.”

Likeness of Winnie the Pooh being compared to Chinese President Xi Jinping is reportedly banned in China after an image went viral in 2018 in which he was seen walking with then US president Barack Obama.

The shoes also featured the iconic “Tank Man” scene with the tops of the tanks replaced by Winnie the Pooh heads.

Images of the Tiananmen Square crackdown are banned in China and have been scrubbed from the country’s restricted internet.

China denies it has committed any human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region. According to human rights groups and a United Nations committee, as many as a million Uygur muslims – the region’s largest ethnic group – have been detained in “re-education centres” there and subjected to indoctrination, torture and forced labour.

Tencent, which holds exclusive streaming rights for NBA games in China, stopped streaming Boston Celtics games online after Kanter originally posted a video message to his social media accounts in which he called Xi a “brutal dictator”.

This is the latest in a long line of troubles for the NBA and its teams in China since 2019 when then Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for Hong Kong’s protest movement.

Boston Celtics’ Enes Kanter’s ‘Free Uyghur’ shoes. Photo: AP

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV has not shown any NBA games so far in the 2021-22 season.

Tencent does not stream games featuring the Philadelphia 76ers, where Morey has been the president of basketball operations since November 2020, just as the platform did not show Rockets games when Morey was the general manager there.

The NBA has yet to comment on the shoes or on Kanter’s social media posts. However, it is league policy that it must approve all shoes worn on the court.

The Celtics’ page on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, has been flooded with posts demanding Kanter be punished, be made to issue an apology and be banned from the NBA.