Former Jazz big man Enes Kanter calls out Nike, China, on reported slave labor camps
SALT LAKE CITY — Former Jazzman and Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter, who stands 6-foot-10, is calling out some other big players: China and Nike. The issue? What types of workers put together the pricey shoes so many of us wear?
KSL NewsRadio’s Dave Noriega and Maura Carabello of the Exoro Group in Salt Lake City recently tackled the issue.
Here’s how the conversation started: “I’ll tell you this, my closet is filled with Nike stuff,” said Dave.
“Yeah, me, too,” said Maura.
“Do I turn a blind eye? I absolutely do because they’re cool shoes,” Dave said.
“They’re cool, and I don’t want to pay extra, right?” Maura asked.
Big man speaks out
Kanter said recently that the Chinese government needs to shut “the slave labor camps and free the Uyghur [Chinese Muslims] people.”
“Nike, your company says that you are making a positive impact in our communities. And Nike remains vocal about injustice here in America. But when it comes to China,” Kanter said, “Nike remains silent.
“You do not address police brutality in China. You do not speak about discrimination against the LGBTQ community. You do not say a word about the oppression of minorities in China. You’re scared to speak up,” Kanter said.
“Nike has denied this. They’ve come out with official statements to say, ‘We’ve looked into it. All of our shoes are ethically built and manufactured,'” Dave said.
The US State Department estimates that up to 2 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have been detained in internment camps in Xinjiang since 2017, according to CNN. China has repeatedly denied human rights abuses.
Kanter went on to accuse Nike’s owner, Phil Knight, of facilitating the exploitation of Chinese Uyghurs in labor camps. He asked Knight to join him on a flight to China to survey the situation on the ground, along with LA Laker LeBron James and NBA legend Michael Jordan.
To the owner of @Nike, Phil Knight
How about I book plane tickets for us
and let’s fly to China together.
— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) October 26, 2021
Kanter wore customized shoes in the Celtics win against the Charlotte Hornets on Monday. Written on his shoes were the words “Modern Day Slavery” and “No More Excuses.”
Kanter went on to describe what he said is the Uyghurs’ working conditions in Chinese camps
Who makes your shoes in China? Do you even know? There are so many forced labor factories in China, modern-day slavery. And it is happening right now in China. Millions of workers are currently detained, sold and assigned to work at forced labor camps, prisons and factories across the country. They are under constant surveillance with long working hours and poor living conditions.”
Kanter message to Nike has China lashing out
“China is very, very sensitive to any criticism from the NBA,” Dave said.
Here’s an example.
The Chinese video-streaming site Tencent responded to Kanter’s comments by pulling the Celtics season opener against the New York Knicks. China is home to 500 million NBA fans. Upcoming Celtics games also appear to be unavailable for live stream. China-based Tencent declined to comment when contacted by CNBC. The Boston Celtics and NBA China were not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.
In July, Tencent reached a five-year, $1.5 billion deal to remain the NBA’s exclusive digital partner in China; it is the NBA’s largest partnership outside of the US as reported by USA TODAY.
“I just have found it fascinating, number 1, that [Kanter] would take on such behemoths [Nike and China] and really bite the hand that feeds him, the NBA directly,” Dave said.
A Celtics fan page on Weibo — China’s Twitter-like platform with approximately 615,000 fans — said it would no longer provide updates on the Celtics because of Kanter’s social-media criticism of China, according to CNN.
“From now on, our page will no longer report any information about the Boston Celtics, and our Weibo will stop updating!”
Kanter isn’t the only NBA figure facing a backlash from China. The Houston Rockets’ general manager apologized for his tweet supporting anti-government protesters in Hong Kong in 2019:
” … did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.
— Daryl MorΞy 🗽🏀 (@dmorey) October 7, 2019