Enes Kanter Freedom – the Boston Celtics center known until Monday simply as Enes Kanter – is not easing his criticism of China, Nike and basketball star LeBron James.
Longtime critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Freedom turned its attention to China last month, first for its policy on Tibet, then for its treatment of Uyghurs, a Turkish ethnic minority who mainly live in the region. Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Authority (XUAR).
Just over a month ago, that criticism spread to Nike, which he says makes his shoes using “slave labor.” In March last year, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) released a report claiming that 83 companies had benefited from the use of Uyghur labor. One case study specifically linked Nike to a factory that reportedly employed 600 workers from ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. According to a Washington Post article published in February 2020 citing both Uyghurs and locals, these workers did not choose to come to the factory and were not allowed to practice their religion.
In July 2020, Nike told Radio Free Asia that the factory had since stopped hiring workers from Xinjiang and all workers in the region had been sent home. According to Nike’s official statement on Xinjiang, Taekwang Group, the plant’s South Korean parent company, stopped hiring new “employees” from Xinjiang at that specific plant in 2019, “when reports of the situation at XUAR have started to surface â. Citing an independent third-party audit, Nike said it had confirmed that there were no more workers from Xinjiang at the facility. The company also claimed that “on-going due diligence has found no evidence of the employment of Uyghurs or other XUAR ethnic minorities elsewhere in our supply chain in China.”
Freedom, however, does not appear convinced by these claims and has since made several appearances on cable news programs where he urged the NBA and Nike, its biggest sponsor, to take a stronger stand against China. On social media, he invited Nike co-founder and owner Phil Knight and basketball icons LeBron James and Michael Jordan to travel with him to China so they can all inspect the supply chain together. the company.
âNike continues to talk about injustice here in America, but when it comes to China, Nike remains silent,â the NBA player said in a video posted to his social media last month. âYou don’t talk about police brutality in China, you don’t talk about discrimination against the LGBTQ community, you don’t say a word about the oppression of minorities in China. You are afraid to speak.
The NBA itself has a close relationship with China as it is considered to have enormous growth potential for its product.
Freedom stepped up its criticism of James earlier this month ahead of an NBA game between the Celtics and James Lakers.
“Moral money for the ‘king’,” Freedom wrote on Twitter. âSad and disgusting how these athletes claim they care about social justiceâ¦ They really shut up and dribble when Big Boss says so. Did you find out about the slave labor that made your shoes or isn’t it part of your research? “
The post included photos of a pair of shoes he would wear the next day when he clashed with James. The sneakers feature the great basketball player bowing to a caricatured depiction of Xi Jinping as the Chinese leader places a crown on his head. James responded to Freedom at a post-match press conference.
âI think if you know me you know I don’t give my energy to too many people,â James said. âHe’s definitely not someone I would give my energy to. He’s trying to use my name to create an opportunity for himself. I certainly won’t comment too much on this.
“He’s always had a word or two to say in my direction, and as a man, if you have a problem with someone, you really go to him.” He had his chance tonight. I saw him in the hallway, and he walked right past me.
Despite James’ contempt, it seems Freedom’s activism is garnering attention. Interest in the player increased when he started speaking out against China last month, according to data from Google Trends. Last week, interest hit its second-highest level in the past five years – the week Freedom signed with the Boston Celtics, still ranks number one.