According to Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter Freedom, American athletes and the sports community have shied away from taking a public stance on the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) human rights crimes because of money.

“Whenever we sit down to have a conversation, they always … acknowledge obviously the genocide and they know what’s going on,” Freedom said at a Heritage Foundation-hosted live-streamed event on Jan. 31. 

“They know what’s going on, they know all the abuses done by CCP, but just because … they had these big endorsement deals or they have a lot of jersey sales or shoe sales in China, they are telling me they have to remain silent but they are supportive of me and praying for me,” the NBA player explained.

Freedom stated that he had witnessed the same self-censorship by the league, NBA agents, and anybody else with a platform. 

Freedom’s name was mysteriously removed from the Celtics’ roster on Sohu, a major Chinese media platform. Although there was a five-year arrangement to broadcast NBA games in China, it pulled live-streaming for Celtics games in October when Freedom released a video asking for the state to halt oppression in Tibet.

The NBA player stated that he is not afraid of punishment from the CCP, and he will do all in his capacity to “educate” his mates. “I cannot stop just because of all that business involved. I just wish more athletes could join me. It’s a hard path, but I constantly tell myself that God is with me.”

Like Freedom, athletes and sports staff who support Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters are still subject to sanctions such as severing partnerships, declining investment, or canceling sporting events.

Ahead of the Winter Olympics, a Chinese official has warned international athletes not to speak out on political matters for fear of violating the “Olympic spirit” and losing their chance to participate. 

Due to China’s “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity” and restrictions on free speech, the United States called for a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics, followed by Australia, Britain, Japan, and Canada.

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