NBA Star Doubles Down on China Criticism, New Shoes Show Him Holding Winnie the Pooh's Head

Boston Celtics star Enes Kanter has criticized the Chinese government again after wearing a pair of sneakers that had the words "Free China" stitched across them.

Kanter wore the shoes during Sunday's game against the Houston Rockets, marking the third time in one week that he wore shoes protesting China. While Kanter did not play in the game, the star center could be seen with the footwear on the bench.

The shoes were created by Kanter, who worked with a Shanghai cartoonist, Badiucao, who often creates artistic pieces against the Chinese regime. Kanter's two other pairs of shoes, worn in previous games, stated "Free Tibet" and "Free Uyghur," respectively.

XI JINPING and the Chinese Communist Party

Someone has to teach you a lesson,
I will NEVER apologize for speaking the truth.
You can NOT buy me.
You can NOT scare me.
You can NOT silence me.

Bring it on!! #FreedomShoes#XinnieThePooh pic.twitter.com/JFGEgIaXlN

— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) October 24, 2021

On the opposite side of the "Free China" shoes, a caricature could be seen of Kanter holding up the head of Winnie the Pooh. The beloved children's character is often used to mock Chinese President Xi Jinping due to their supposed physical likeness.

The South China Morning Post reported that the comparison upsets Xi so much that artistic depictions of the two are banned in China.

The shoes also depicted Winnie the Pooh's head on top of a series of tanks, a callback to the 1989 takeover of Tiananmen Square by the Chinese government. The moment has become one of the most iconic scenes of the 20th Century and has also been subject to censorship by Chinese media.

Kanter posted a picture of the shoes on social media, stating that somebody had to hold the Chinese accountable for their actions.

"Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party, someone has to teach you a lesson," Kanter tweeted. "I will NEVER apologize for speaking the truth."

"You can NOT buy me. You can NOT scare me. You can NOT silence me," Kanter wrote.

Enes Kanter shoes
Boston Celtics star Enes Kanter's shoes spoke out against the actions of the Chinese government and showed the player holding up a picture of Winnie the Pooh's head as a shot towards China's president. Here, Kanter can be seen wearing another pair of protest sneakers that say "Free Tibet." Sarah Stier/Getty

This is not the first time that Kanter, among other National Basketball Association (NBA) players, has spoken out against China. Kanter is among the most vocal activists in the league, and has called Xi a "brutal dictator."

Kanter himself is a practicing Muslim and has also protested the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China through his shoes. The United Nations has reported that up to 1 million Uyghurs have been sent to detention camps in China.

Kanter, who was born into a Turkish family, has also criticized the actions of Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Kanter previously tweeted that Erdogan was the "Hitler of our century."

While a member of the New York Knicks in 2019, he declined to travel with his teammates to a game in London, as he told the BBC that he feared for his life in Europe.

China has pushed back against the actions of Kanter and others, and the South China Morning Post reported that Chinese state television has not broadcast any NBA games during the 2021-22 season.

Tencent, the Chinese broadcasting company that streams NBA games in that country, has also stopped streaming Boston Celtics games after the incident.

Additionally, China's social media platform Weibo reportedly saw numerous posts calling for Kanter to be punished or banned from playing basketball.

Newsweek has reached out to the NBA and the Boston Celtics for comment.