Anti-China NBA player mocked after being waived by Houston Rockets
Published: Feb 11, 2022 03:55 PM
Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III (44) shoots a free throw during the second half against the Chicago Bulls at TD Garden. Photo: IC

Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III (44) shoots a free throw during the second half against the Chicago Bulls at TD Garden. Photo: IC

NBA team the Houston Rockets, which has a large fan base in China, waived the controversial Enes Kanter Freedom after acquiring the center via a trade with the Boston Celtics before the transfer window closed on Thursday (ET). 

After senior ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, also widely known as Woj, announced the trade through a Twitter post, netizens swarmed to the platform, mocking the player who has been ignorant and arrogant on China's core interests and internal affairs such as those involving Xinjiang, Xizang, and Taiwan. 

As a below-average player, Kanter Freedom has only averaged 11.7 minutes, 3.7 points, and 4.6 rebounds in 35 games this season. Despite a rare appearance this season, broadcasters in China have yet to resume games featuring the Celtics, making the anti-China Kanter Freedom look like a burden to the league that has hundreds of millions audience members in China. 

After being traded and then waived by the Houston Rockets, Freedom said "the world will be shocked," in a Twitter post. However, if this is the end of his NBA career, Freedom's future path doesn't seem as surprising as he makes it out to be.  

"Now you can be a full time John Bolton puppet," commented Chen Weihua, China Daily's EU bureau chief, receiving over 1,600 likes. 

Freedom wasn't a popular character in the NBA, and the Boston Celtics is the eighth team he has served in the league. He called out Lebron James, one of the greatest basketball players ever, last November, for not standing up to sponsor Nike and its alleged use of "forced labor" in China, which proved to be fictitious and fabricated. James responded that Freedom tried to use his name "to create an opportunity for himself," and "he's definitely not someone I would give my energy to."

"I always thought of you as someone that stood for freedom, and then I heard you're going to CPAC, the exact people that are actively taking away freedoms in the US," said another netizen, indicating Freedom's future plan as a speaker at the 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

With about 43,000 likes and 3,200 comments on Woj's Twitter post saying "Rockets are waiving Freedom," the trade becomes the second-most-watched of the deadline day, only behind the quake-sized trade between two all-star players James Harden and Ben Simmons.

Some Twitter users said Freedom will now be a full time activist or a Fox News pundit. 

"He's not wanted in the NBA but at least he's still wanted in Turkey," said a net user. 

Kanter Freedom, an 11-year NBA veteran, changed his last name to Freedom to celebrate receiving US citizenship in November 2021. Freedom's passport was revoked by his native country Turkey due to his anti-government stance. He is facing a four-year sentence at minimum if he came back to Turkey, media reported. 

"He's really free now," mocked another. 

Freedom's name did not appear directly in Chinese sports news on deadline day, but many Celtics fans posted on basketball forum Hupu expressing their excitement as if they "fought off the virus." 

"He didn't focus on basketball as a player and lost his job… And Chinese fans can expect to watch Boston's games soon," a Beijing-based sports commentator who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Friday.   

Freedom repeatedly made false and irresponsible comments regarding China's Xinjiang in 2021. Meanwhile, he publicly declared his support for Xizang and Taiwan secessionists.

Rockets legend Yao Ming, who is also the head of the Chinese Basketball Association, said in an interview in January on Freedom that "people must be responsible for what they say," and "seeing China for himself may help them know China in a more comprehensive way."