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Leaked audio reveals NBA told staffers not to offend China

Enes Kanter Freedom, then of the Portland Trail Blazers, on May 18, 2019 at Moda Center in Portland, Ore. (Frenchieinportland/Wikimedia Commons)
August 19, 2022

The NBA warned teams not to let signs criticizing China or supporting Hong Kong appear in photos or on camera, a Boston Celtics marketing official said in audio that surfaced this week.

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This week, former Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter Freedom shared audio recordings of a Boston Celtics marketing official warning the player about the NBA’s efforts not to offend China in December 2021. 

“Early in the season, like the first couple of games, they like warned me that there might be people there, make sure that they are not in the background in any of your photos or anything,” the marketing official told Kanter Freedom, referring to spectators carrying anti-China or pro-Hong Kong signs. 

The marketing official added that it was likely about fear that China would “just start retaliating against” the league. 

“Like I said, just be careful,” she added. 

Kanter Freedom joined Fox News host Laura Ingraham to discuss the new audio exposing the NBA’s willingness to bow to the Chinese Communist Party. 

“First of all, the world needs to understand that everything the NBA does is either for money or a publicity stunt. It’s been like that for years, so I’m not really surprised. They could tell us about the players, about the coaching staff and the fans as long as the league image is profitable.”

“Finally, they are really mad because someone, finally, from the inside, that played 11 years in this league, [is] going out there and exposing them one by one,” Kanter Freedom said, adding that it is “unacceptable” that the NBA can “bow down” to the “biggest dictatorship in the world.”

“It hurt my heart. So I was like, you know what, enough is enough. Someone has to go out and call out this hypocrisy. And I did it,” he added. 

When asked by Fox News for comment, the NBA said that “the league does not have rules against fans supporting Hong Kong at games.”

“Commissioner Silver has made it absolutely clear that we have supported and will continue to support every member of the NBA family expressing their personal views on social and political issues,” the NBA added.  

In response, Kanter Freedom said the league was “embarrassing themselves.”

“At this point, the whole world knows that they are bowing down to China and it is unacceptable. I just cannot believe that they still can just lie to the American people,” he said. “I do a lot of basketball games around the world and even now the little kids are telling me about the hypocrisy of the NBA. So they are just embarrassing themselves.”

“Enough is enough. I’m just hoping that more players will come and join me so it’s going to become a movement. I know that one day they will,” Kanter Freedom concluded. 

In June, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the Chinese Communist Party’s state-run tv once again airing the league’s games after an 18-month ban is a “positive” development that is not “inconsistent with [the NBA’s] values.”