LeBron James could face one of his fiercest critics as Lakers set to play Celtics

Celtics center Enes Kanter has called out James, and others, in recent weeks for being silent on human rights abuses committed by the Chinese government. Kanter accused them of pretending to care about social justice issues, calling them “sad & disgusting.”

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Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James, right, talks with forward Anthony Davis during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021, in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, right, talks with forward Anthony Davis during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Kanter has also railed against the Chinese government over the treatment of Uyghur Muslims and has called for the freedom of Tibet, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Kanter has won sneakers promoting his own geopolitical initiatives, though he’s only averaging 7.8 minutes per game — a steep drop from the 24.4 minutes he was averaging last season with the Portland Trail Blazers.

James has been one of the most active voices in the social justice landscape over the last few years. The Lakers superstar founded the I Promise School and invested $ 20 million earlier this year to help rebuild the Akron, Ohio, neighborhood he grew up in. He’s made his thoughts known on the murder of George Floyd, an Ohio teen who was shot dead by a police officer in a knife incident and recently the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.

But when it’s come to geopolitical issues, James’ voice has noticeably been quiet.

James wasn’t quick to say anything when Daryl Morey, who was then the Houston Rockets general manager, tweeted in 2019 “Fight For Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” The tweet led to a Chinese government crackdown on NBA games being shown in the country.

Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter sits on the bench against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena, on Oct 30, 2021.

Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter sits on the bench against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena, on Oct 30, 2021. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

“I’m not here to judge how the league handled the situation,” James initially said in October 2019. “I just think that, when you’re misinformed or you’re not educated about something – and I’m just talking about the tweet itself – you never know the ramifications that can happen. We all see what that did, not only did for our league but for all of us in America, for people in China as well. Sometimes you have to think through the things that you say that may cause harm not only for yourself but for the majority of people. I think that’s just a prime example of that.”

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He also added in a tweet: “My team and this league just went through a difficult week. I think people need to understand what a tweet or statement can do to others. And I believe nobody stopped and considered what would happen. Could have waited a week to send it.”

James faced criticism from Kanter and Hong Kong protesters who were fighting against a security law.

Kanter also criticized James for not being more of a public advocate for the COVID-19 vaccine. James said days before the start of the season that everyone “has their own choice to do what they feel is right for themselves and their family” when it came to the vaccine.

Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter displays a message on his shoes during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, in Boston. 

Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter displays a message on his shoes during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, in Boston.  (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

“When I heard it, I was very disappointed, and it’s ridiculous,” Kanter told CNN. “Obviously, LeBron James, he’s one of the faces of the league, and he should be the first one to go out there and say, ‘Listen, everyone. I got the vaccine, and I’m encouraging everyone, my community, everyone, basketball fans, non-basketball fans and sports fans are just going out there and get this vaccine, so we can save other lives.’

“When I heard that, I just couldn’t believe it. But I hope he can educate himself about this vaccination and inspire and encourage other people around him.”

It’s unclear whether James or Kanter will see the floor Friday.

James is battling an abdominal issue and may not make the trip with the team to Boston. ESPN reported James is “progressing great.” The Lakers listed him as questionable for the game.

He has not commented on any of Kanter’s criticisms.

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