The Boston Celtics’ Enes Kanter excoriated both the NBA and Nike Wednesday for not standing up to China over human rights abuses being perpetrated by the communist country.
During an appearance on PBS’ “Amanpour & Company,” Kanter questioned whether the NBA was actually on his side when it came to his decision to speak out against China’s treatment of Tibet, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Uighurs. He also accused Nike of telling “a total lie” in its claims that China was not using slave labor to produce its products.
Kanter, who spoke out specifically against China’s treatment of Tibet in October, told host Christiane Amanpour that his decade-long criticism of his home country Turkey’s authoritarian government garnered little attention from the NBA, while one day of speaking out against China brought him a phone call every two hours.
He recalled an instance before a game at Madison Square Garden in which he decided to wear shoes reading “free Tibet.” He said NBA officials approached him, imploring him to take them off and suggesting he could be “banned” for wearing them.
Kanter refused to remove them and explained the two individuals apologized to him at halftime and explained that he wasn’t breaking any rules by wearing the shoes.
He said the NBA encouraged him to speak out on the issues he cared about, and that he even sat down with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who he claimed reiterated support for him in speaking out against China.
Kanter, however, said he was unsure if he believed them.
“I don’t know how much of that is true, because if they were really supporting me, they would have put something out there. They would have put [out] some kind of statement,” he said.
Amanpour asked Kanter why he continued to criticize Nike despite its claim that it followed all international labor standards in producing its products in China. She noted the company didn’t respond to her team’s request for comment on potential violations of labor standards.
“Nike, obviously, is one of the biggest — the biggest sponsor for NBA. And two years ago when all the Black Lives Matter happened, Nike was one of the first companies out there, was standing with Black Lives Matter,” Kanter said.
“Nike stands with Stop Asian Hate. Nike stands with LGBTQ community. Nike stands with Latino community. But when it comes to China, Nike remains silent because China is the big boss for Nike,” he added. “Obviously, they’re not going to be able to answer because they know what they’re doing wrong. They’re one of the biggest hypocrite companies in the world.”
Amanpour noted again that Nike publicly denied using slave labor in China.
“It’s [a] total lie. Everyone in the world knows that there are so many slave labor camps over there in China and many other countries that Nike is profiting from,” Kanter said. “So that was one of the biggest reasons that I put on my shoes, ‘Modern Day Slavery’ and ‘Hypocrite Nike,’ just because they’re profiting from slave labor camps.”
“It’s just disgusting to me to see all the Nike athletes standing up and calling themselves a social justice warrior and still can wear these items on their shoe, on their feet and on their back when on these items there is so much blood and sweat and oppression. And to me, if you’re a Nike athlete, to me, you’re a hypocrite,” he added.