‘Freedom is not free’: Celtics’ Enes Kanter responds to LeBron James’ China, Daryl Morey comments

Enes Kanter has some thoughts on LeBron James’ weak reaction to NBA’s China situation

Jack Baer | Yahoo Sports

If there is one player in the NBA who’s going to have something to say about the league’s weak reaction to its ongoing China controversy, it’s Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter.

The Turkish national has plenty of experience with authoritarian regimes. His native Turkey has been turned into a “totalitarian prison” under president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to the Washington Post’s editorial board, and Kanter has effectively lost his country by speaking out against the dictator.

His passport has been cancelled, his father has been imprisoned, he is no longer able to play outside the U.S., he has had youth basketball camps threatened, he has been accosted at a mosque and he sleeps with a panic button due to a truckload of death threats.

Meanwhile, the NBA and its players are dealing with an authoritarian problem of their own. Of course, rather than face the stick from Turkey as Kanter has, they are instead being incentivized by the carrot of Chinese revenue to stay silent about the country’s human rights violations and suppression of democracy in Hong Kong. China’s threat to erase the league from the country like it has the Rockets and so many other dissenters has been effective; no major NBA players have publicly supported Daryl Morey’s tweet of “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong,” lest they lose a significant portion of their paycheck.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James went so far as to call Morey “misinformed” on Monday for tweeting such a thing about a city where police have arrested thousands of protesters pushing for democratic elections and against a bill that would allow criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China.

Enes Kanter has some things to say, probably about LeBron James

James’ complaints of a “terrible week” in which the Lakers nearly had preseason games cancelled, lamenting how “people could have been harmed, not only financially but physically, emotionally spiritually” by Morey’s tweet — “hurt feelings” are a frequent trope used by Chinese propaganda against dissent — and refusal to discuss the politics of a country where he makes millions predictably drew some prime subtweeting from Kanter late Monday night.

Kanter didn’t immediately denounce the NBA’s reaction to Morey’s tweet either, though he probably shouldn’t have to be the league’s singular anti-authoritarian mouthpiece at the end of the day. He instead said that he hoped the league could “build bridges.” Monday’s sub-tweeting might be a signal he’s becoming less confident in that happening.

Just what the Celtics-Lakers rivalry needed: geopolitical intrigue.

LeBron James Finally Takes Question About China, Responds By Licking The Boot

Chris Thompson | DEADSPIN

LeBron James has been silent on the matter of China throwing a massive temper tantrum over Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeting and deleting a limp slogan in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. With the NBA spasming and losing bowel control around him, the world’s most visible basketball player managed to go more than a week without so much as uttering a “no comment” on record, which is no small feat. LeBron broke that silence Monday night, and in a way that perfectly captures the NBA’s own queasy, craven, profit-driven equivocation on the subject.

“We all talk about this freedom of speech—yes, we all do have freedom of speech, but at times there are ramifications for the negative, that can happen, um, when you’re not thinking about others, or you’re only thinking about yourself. So, I don’t believe—I don’t want to get into a word or a sentence feud with Daryl, with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke. And so many people could have been harmed, not only financially but physically, emotionally, spiritually. So just be careful what we tweet, what we say, and what we do, even though, yes, we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that, too.”


At first blush it sounds very much like LeBron bought into Joseph Tsai’s bullshit—probably because it’s a convenient way of avoiding commenting directly on the conflict between protestors and the Chinese government—and when he says “educated,” he means that Morey is not sufficiently knowledgeable about the Qing dynasty to have feelings about Hong Kong protestors having their eyeballs shot out by cops. Just to reiterate the point, you absolutely do not need to know any Chinese history whatsoever to support the prerogative of citizens of a semi-autonomous state to resist authoritarian rule. For that matter, Daryl Morey could have a PhD in Chinese History and have based his seven-word tweet on an intimate knowledge of the geopolitical nuances of the conflict, and it would not have reduced by one iota the ferocity of the Chinese response.

But it turns out LeBron’s comments reflect a particularly cynical kind of pragmatism. The “thinking about others” part can be understood to mean that livelihoods—in particular, the livelihoods of members of the NBA—are affected by a conflict of this magnitude with an entity in control of as much basketball revenue as the Chinese government.

This is a real thing—at least one agent told Hoops Hype’s Alex Kennedy that a hit to the NBA’s salary cap is “inevitable” in the wake of China pulling its business. The longer the NBA and China are on the outs, the greater the potential harm to player salaries. LeBron is probably right, in this one respect: Morey probably had not considered what the utter loss of Chinese cash might mean for basketball-related income, and how that might depress future player earnings.

But allowing that calculus to form the basis for decisions about political speech is accepting that all speech is ultimately subject to the approval of those wielding financial might. Worse, it’s an affirmative argument that everyone everywhere should capitulate whenever their politics are in conflict with those in power, which is a breathtakingly cowardly position to hold, let alone to advocate on behalf of. If nothing else, these remarks give a pretty gruesome view of the thought process behind LeBron’s general social and political outspokenness, and suggest that LeBron only takes public stances that he perceives as safe and commercially viable. Which is probably true!

But it’s also probably not something LeBron wants to make known.

Upon immediately realizing that his comments were not being received favorably, LeBron made an effort to ensure they were understood as narrowly as possible, with a vague gesture at the fact that a few NBA teams were traveling in China around the time of Morey’s tweet.

Needless to say, it’s more than a little weak for LeBron to suggest a threat of physical danger at the hands of a vengeful totalitarian government as the substance of his criticism of a tweet supporting protesters who are rejecting the rule of that same government (also, if NBA players are put in genuine danger by a single tweet while in China, that seems like a pretty good reason for the NBA to not send players to China in the first place).

This is another hideous reminder, amid a fucking onslaught of daily reminders, of just how easy it is to gather an army of apologists and defenders, even from among the relatively powerful, if you have lots of money, a habit of making enemies, and the will to use your money against them.

Tobias Harris says sleep deprivation will be an NBA issue akin to NFL’s concussions

Cassandra Negley | Yahoo Sports

Sleep is a hot commodity for nearly everyone. There’s never enough time to get the proper amount of it, and Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris sees it as the looming problem in the NBA. Via ESPN:

“I think in a couple years,” he says, “[sleep deprivation] will be an issue that’s talked about, like the NFL with concussions.”

Despite the league changing around its scheduling procedures, players still aren’t getting the proper amount of sleep and it may be taking a toll on their performance, injury rate and long-term health. ESPN’s Baxter Holmes detailed the issue in a feature out Monday.

Why are NBA players lacking sleep?

Dr. Charles Czeisler, the director of sleep medicine at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, said professional athletes are not immune from the public health problem of insufficient sleep. He told ESPN that players he’s talked to sleep on average five hours a night, and some “very famous” ones have told him it’s more like three to four hours for them. With a pre-game nap, it’s approximately six hours of sleep per 24-hour cycle. But naps don’t allow the brain to fully cycle through the stages of sleep and it is not as good as overnight sleep.

Young adults ages 18 to 25 and adults ages 26 to 64 are recommended to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night, per the National Sleep Foundation. The foundation recommends having a strict sleep schedule (for example, always go to bed at 10:30 p.m. and wake at 6:30 a.m.), but it’s impossible for NBA players to do that.

NBA schedule a damaging form of ‘shift work’

Timothy Royer is a neurologist specializing in attention disorders, sleep management, stress and anxiety. He joined the Orlando Magic in 2012 as a consultant and began traveling with the team. It’s when he noticed the inherent struggles in the schedule and travel responsibilities, per ESPN.

He views the NBA players’ schedules as a form of shift work, per ESPN, that goes beyond the struggle of working a graveyard/overnight shift a few nights a week. Unlike people who can stay on a daily schedule for the most part around their shifts, NBA players can’t stick to a regimented daily schedule due to vastly different tip-off times. Going across time zones constantly makes it even worse.

“There’s not a factory on the planet,” Royer told ESPN, “that would move shift workers the way we move NBA players.”

The time zone travel throws off circadian rhythms, the natural, internal 24-hour process that determines sleep and awake cycles. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified shift work with circadian disruption as a probable human carcinogen. It impacts mainly emergency medical workers, military personnel, law enforcement and pilots. Studies found the casual link between shift work and cancer is biologically plausible, but more work is needed.

Basketball is also unlike almost all other professional sports. Baseball players almost always play games at 7 p.m. local time, with a few afternoon games. When they travel time zones, they stay in one spot for two to three days. In the NFL, there is one game a week and the rest of the week is almost always spent at home where they can settle into a schedule.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady credited a good start to more sleep, thanks to Sunday afternoon games they’re not typically afforded.

Lack of sleep impacts testosterone, injuries

Royer and his team tested testosterone levels and found vast reductions over the course of a season. In the study, which is not a double-blind, peer reviewed one per ESPN, testosterone levels dropped 64 percent in five months. They found similar results in employees who travel with the organization, leading them to believe it isn’t about playing too much.

He then had it analyzed against injury data and found there was a “statistically significant increase in risk” when testosterone levels dipped far enough.

Phyllis Zee, chief of sleep medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said sleep deprivation affects all of the body’s organs. “Think about it as punching your other organs,” Zee told ESPN.

For anyone, chronic sleep loss can have devastating consequences. It can lead to public safety issues as well as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and a shorter life expectancy, per the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School.