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NBA Star Enes Kanter Calls Out China While NBA And Nike Stay Silent

Enes Kanter has been called a hero for speaking out and characterized as brave. Still, the big and mighty NBA and Nike have chosen to be silent.

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When Boston Celtics forward Enes Kanter looked up during one of his recent games, a blue flag was waving as fans held up signs spelling out “Thank you Kanter.” Their shirts read “Free the Uyghurs” and when the picture was later tweeted out by Kanter, replies thanking him and calling him a hero flooded Twitter. 

A few weeks ago, Tencent, a Chinese streaming site, ripped Celtics games from their streaming platform after Kanter made fun of Chinese President Xi Jinping with custom sneakers and criticized the country’s treatment of Tibetans. But the deplatforming didn’t stop Kanter, as he then challenged the Nike owner Phil Knight and basketball superstars LeBron James and Michael Jordan to visit slave labor camps in China with him. 

Since the season began on Oct. 19, Kanter has featured four pairs of customized shoes promoting anti-China messaging. One pair read “Free China,” and his previous shoes included ones that read “Free Tibet,” “Free Uygur,” “Modern Day Slavery,” and “No More Excuses.”  

Kanter has been called a hero for speaking out and characterized as brave and a light in the darkness. The praise comes not from corporations or media executives, but from many average Americans. But most of all Kanter is getting louder and growing in importance.

While Kanter keeps speaking out, the big and mighty NBA and Nike have chosen to be silent — probably because of their deep, corrupt ties with the oppressive government. 

In 2019, Tencent signed a five-year, $1.5 billion deal to stay the NBA’s digital partner in China. The state-controlled station has been the sole broadcaster of the NBA since the 1990s. But tension has been running high since the new contract. In 2019, former Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. Following those tweets, the broadcast of NBA games in China was halted by the Chinese government.

Games eventually returned, all except Philadelphia’s games, where Morey then moved after the season. But it didn’t stop there. All but two games — the NBA finals — were blocked by CCTV in the 2020 season. From that alone, the NBA lost $200 million, as China provides nearly 500 million fans.  

The league even owns a branch called “NBA China” to breed local basketball players. After an investigation by ESPN, serious human rights violations were reported to be happening in the training facilities of NBA China. One of those training centers was in Xinjiang, where most of the players who trained were Uighurs.

Nike is no better. In 2015, the company signed a $1 billion deal with the NBA to exclusively produce the league’s jerseys. 

“Don’t forget, every time you put those shoes on your feet or you put that T-shirt on your back, there are so many tears and so much oppression and so much blood behind it all,” Kanter said. “Nike likes to say ‘Just do it.’ Well, what are you doing about the slave labor that makes your shoes.

Kanter is freely and candidly calling out one of the most prominent brands in the world for extreme human rights abuses, and he is doing so with no regrets. No wonder people are calling Kanter a hero. His comments are exposing deep corruption in one of the most popular sports leagues and sportswear corporations in the world. 

“Who makes your shoes in China? Do you even know?” Kanter continued. “There are so many forced labor factories in China. For instance, Uygur-forced labor is modern-day slavery, and it is happening right now in China. Millions of Uygurs are currently detained, sold, and assigned to work in forced labor camps like prisons in factories across the country.”

In response, Nike has said nothing and neither has the NBA. Kanter’s tweets continue, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Nike and the NBA have not spoken out on Kanter, and neither has Lebron James, nor Michael Jordan. 

Another tweet by Kanter said, “You can NOT buy me. You can NOT scare me. You can NOT silence me. Bring it on!!”

Maybe that is why no one has been successful. Kanter is brave and shows no fear of those who oppose him. In 2019, an international arrest warrant was issued for Kanter, claiming he belonged to a terrorist organization and requesting his extradition to Turkey. The warrant came after the Turkish native became an active critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government. 

If Kanter can stand the threats of a whole country, then the NBA and Nike can’t scare him, and they sure don’t have a chance at stopping him. One tweet said, “change is coming,” and it will if Kanter continues his heroic efforts.