The messenger is just as important as the message. And in the case of Enes Kanter, a very important message isn’t being listened to because the messenger would rather make impulsive noises.
The Celtics’ Turkish big man is fearless. It’s evident by his physical playing style and the way he lives his life. Kanter has been a wanted man in his home country for years. It’s the reason why he can’t go back, as he has multiple warrants against him for speaking out against the government. And if you ask Kanter, his actions led to the arrest of his father by the Turkish government, as he was released last year after seven years.
This is why it makes sense that someone like Kanter would be using his platform as an international player thriving in the NBA to speak out against police brutality and the oppression of minorities and the LGBTQ community in China. He also alleges that it’s where Nike uses slave labor to make their products. As you can guess, this has put the league in a bind, as the Celtics are being erased in China, as the NBA has found itself in another battle with its biggest global partner just a year after Daryl Morey’s tweet almost fractured that lucrative partnership forever.
Sounds like a moral cause, right?
So, what did Kanter do wrong?
His frustration led him to make targets of the wrong people, and now he’s a contrarian that’s become a distraction to his cause. He also made two other mistakes. One, as a minority he should know better than to think Black players are supposed to save the world. And two, he broke “man law” by publicly calling out arguably the most popular athlete on the planet, and then cowering like a punk when he had a chance to address him man-to-man.
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“Money over morals for the ‘King,” Kanter wrote in a tweet directed at LeBron James. “Sad and disgusting how these athletes pretend they care about social justice,” he added. “They really do shut up and dribble when Big Boss (China) says so. Did you educate yourself about the slave labor that made your shoes or is that not part of your research?”
The Lakers came to town to face the Celtics on Friday. Kanter was as quiet as a church mouse.
“I think if you know me, you know I don’t give too many people my energy,” James said after the game. “He’s definitely not someone I would give my energy to. He’s trying to use my name to create an opportunity for himself. I definitely won’t comment too much on that.
“He’s always had a word or two to say in my direction, and as a man, if you’ve got an issue with somebody, you really come up to him. He had his opportunity tonight. I seen him in the hallway, and he walked right by me.”
Given that James created an entire school for children – and paid for their college tuition – that have dealt with the same things that Kanter is speaking out for on the behalf of the folks in China, who knows what could have happened if the two had a conversation – given that James has a lifetime billion-dollar deal with Nike and has the ear of Adam Silver. But, we’ll never know because Kanter took the cowardly way out on Friday only to follow that up by making the same mistake again by going after Michael Jordan on CNN.
“Not many people are talking about Michael Jordan,” Kanter said. “Michael Jordan hasn’t done anything, nothing, for the Black community in America besides just, you know, giving them money.”
He then followed that up by trying to clean up his statements about James, while doubling down on Jordan.
“I feel like we need to call out these athletes,” Kanter continued. “At least LeBron James is going out there and being the voice of all those people who are oppressed in America. Michael Jordan has not done anything for the Black community because he cares too much about his shoe sales all over the world and America, and I feel like we need to call out these athletes and not be scared about who they are.”
James has been far from perfect in his ventures in activism, but to call him out for this is beyond hypocritical – especially for someone like Kanter whose charitable acts don’t measure up to the things James has been able to accomplish when it comes to racial and social issues. For instance, we may never truly understand just how impactful his “More Than a Vote” organization was during the 2020 Presidential election which led to Trump being ousted – a “President” that implemented a Muslim ban that was directly targeted at people like Kanter. And as far as what Jordan has/hasn’t done for Black Americans, or what he means to us – well, that’s for us to decide amongst ourselves, not Kanter.
What’s going on in China isn’t cool – at all. And the idea of an international basketball player finding success in America where there is freedom of speech to use his platforms to speak out for others that are being oppressed while playing a global game is a great idea. However, good ideas are meaningless until they’re properly executed. And it doesn’t matter if “your heart is in the right place” if your mouth isn’t.
Enes Kanter has no idea what he’s doing. And that’s the sad part about all of this because those people in China need him to.