After doubling down on accusations of forced labor against the Chinese government and Nike, outspoken Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter is now offering to tour the country’s ‘slave labor camps’ with LeBron James, Michael Jordan, and company co-founder Phil Knight.
‘To the owner of @Nike, Phil Knight,’ Kanter tweeted Tuesday. ‘How about I book plane tickets for us and let’s fly to China together. We can try to visit these SLAVE labor camps and you can see it with your own eyes.’
Using their twitter handles, Kanter added that James and Jordan — two of Nike’s most recognized spokespeople — are ‘welcome to come too.’
Kanter ended the post with the hashtag: #EndUyghurForcedLabor.
After doubling down on accusations of forced labor against the Chinese government and Nike, outspoken Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter is now offering to tour the country’s ‘slave labor camps’ with LeBron James, Michael Jordan, and company co-founder Phil Knight
Using their twitter handles, Kanter added that James and Jordan — two of Nike’s most recognized spokespeople — are ‘welcome to come too’
LeBron James is among Nike’s most celebrates spokespeople having signed a reported seven-year, $90 million contract with the company in 2003 before he entered the NBA Draft
Michael Jordan (left) helped turned Nike into an iconic brand after signing with the unheralded sneaker manufacturer in 1984. Nike was co-founded by Phil Knight (right) in 1964
The shoes of Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter (13) during warm ups before an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets in Charlotte on Monday
Uighurs are among several ethnic minorities that have been targeted by Beijing.
The US State Department estimates that, since 2017, as many as two million Uighurs and other ethnic minorities have been detained in internment camps in China. The country has denied human rights violations and claims the camps are intended to prevent terrorism among the Uighurs, who are predominantly muslim.
Nike, the NBA’s official apparel provider, is among several western brands that have drawn criticism from Beijing for expressing concerns about reports of forced labor in cotton production in the northwest province of Xinjiang.
In a previous statement, the company admitted that it does not handle the sourcing of its cotton in the county ‘directly.’
‘While Nike does not directly source cotton, or other raw materials, traceability at the raw materials level is an area of ongoing focus,’ read the Nike statement. ‘We are working closely with our suppliers, industry associations, brands and other stakeholders to pilot traceability approaches and map material sources so we can have confidence the materials in our products are responsibly produced.’
Tuesday’s tweet follows several similar posts by Kanter targeting Chinese president Xi Jinping.
The 29-year-old Kanter has become an outspoken human rights advocate in recent years and is currently estranged from his native Turkey and his family in the country after criticizing president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as the ‘Hitler of our century.’
Neither the Los Angeles Lakers, James’s team, nor the Celtics responded to DailyMail.com’s request for comment. A spokesperson for the Charlotte Hornets, the team owned by Jordan, referred the question to spokespeople for the Hall of Famer’s brand, who also did not respond to the request for comment.
Similarly, spokespeople for the Chinese Embassy in New York, Nike, the NBA did not respond to DailyMail.com’s emails.
Workers hand stitch shoe parts on the footwear production line at the Anta Sports Products Ltd. factory in Jinjiang, Fujian, China, on August 27, 2019.
A 76-year-old women picks cotton on October 20, 2005 in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region city Maigaiti, China. Although there is no claim that this woman was forced into manual labor, the US State Department estimates that, since 2017, as many as two million Uighurs and other ethnic minorities have been detained in internment camps in China. The country has denied human rights violations and claims the camps are intended to prevent terrorism among the Uighurs, who are predominantly muslim
Celtics coach Ime Udoka was asked about Kanter’s statements on China last week, but said he has not addressed them with the team. Regardless, Udoka said Kanter is free to express himself.
‘We know it’s out there,’ Udoka said before Boston’s home opener on Friday. ‘He is very passionate about a lot of things and he has the freedom to say what he wants. That’s above my department.’
Celtics games are already being blacked out in the country after Kanter slammed Xi as a ‘brutal dictator’ in a previous social media video about China’s treatment of Tibet. Furthermore, Kanter’s name appeared to be blocked on the popular Weibo messaging platform in the communist nation after his initial tweet on the subject on Thursday.
Kanter, an outspoken human rights advocate for several years, is now targeting China about its occupation of Tibet and its interment of the country’s Uighur population
‘I’m here to add my voice and speak out about what is happening in Tibet,’ Kanter said in the video he posted on Twitter last Thursday. ‘Under the Chinese government’s brutal rule, Tibetan people’s basic rights and freedoms are non-existent.
‘They are not allowed to study and learn their language and culture freely. They are not allowed to travel freely. They are not allowed to access information freely. The Tibetan people are not even allowed to worship freely.’
Kanter added another video Monday, calling out Nike specifically.
‘Nike remains vocal about injustice here in America, but when it comes to China, Nike remains silent,’ Kanter said.
‘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 are scared to speak up.’
Kanter has also expressed himself through fashion, wearing custom-made sneakers designed by anti-Beijing artist Baidiucao. The various shoes have included slogans such as ‘Free Tibet,’ ‘Free China,’ ‘Hypocrite Nike,’ and ‘Slave Labor.’ One pair even depicted Xi as Winnie the Pooh — a comparison that bloggers have used to disparage the Chinese President
For Wednesday’s season opener, Kanter wore shoes emblazoned with the phrase ‘Free Tibet’ made by Baidiucao, a dissident China-born cartoonist and artist based in Australia
Kanter has also expressed himself through fashion, wearing custom-made sneakers designed by anti-Beijing artist Baidiucao. The various shoes have included slogans such as ‘Free Tibet,’ ‘Free China,’ ‘Hypocrite Nike,’ and ‘Slave Labor.’
One pair even depicted Xi as Winnie the Pooh — a comparison that bloggers have used to disparage the Chinese President.
Some have posited that Kanter was benched in the Celtics’ season opener in retaliation for his comments.
Senator Tom Cotton (Republican, Arkansas), for one, suggested on Twitter that Kanter was being punished for speaking out against China.
‘The NBA allows its players to kneel during the national anthem, but punishes players for speaking out against human rights violations in China,’ Cotton tweeted. ‘Pathetic, but not surprising.’
In response to DailyMail.com’s request for further comment, a Cotton spokeswoman referenced a specific passage in a Washington Post article on the subject.
‘Kanter was not given the chance,’ read the article by Eva Dou and Lyric Li. ‘Coaches did not send him onto the court during Wednesday’s double-overtime contest.’
Celtics spokespeople did not respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.
Kanter has logged five total minutes this season, but is one of four Celtics players at his position. There has not been any indication that he was benched in retaliation for his comments.
Some are suggesting that Kanter, one of several Celtics centers, was benched Wednesday in retaliation for his comments. Senator Tom Cotton (Republican, Arkansas), for one, claimed on Twitter that Kanter was being punished for speaking out against China
Morey, who is now the president of the 76ers, was never punished by the NBA for his tweet
Kanter’s remarks, and the backlash from China, come two years after a similar PR crisis unfolded for the NBA.
In October of 2019, then-Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s comments in support of the democracy movement in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong prompted state broadcaster CCTV to cease broadcasting NBA games and e-commerce vendors to remove listings for Rockets merchandise.
State media, including CCTV, criticized Morey for his tweet, which was labelled an example of Western interference in a bid to foment unrest and stir up anti-China sentiment, while Chinese partners severed or suspended ties with the NBA.
Anti-NBA protests followed in both mainland China, where fans took aim at LeBron James, and among Hong Kong protesters.
In the US, Chinese-American fans began wearing pro-Hong Kong apparel to preseason games while protesting the regime in Beijing. Similarly, the anti-Beijing protestors in Hong Kong also took aim at James, using his image in memes and burning his jersey.
In the end, the NBA lost about $400 million in Chinese business, according to league commissioner Adam Silver, and faced criticism in the US for its perceived kowtowing to the communist regime.
Morey was never punished by the NBA.
Kanter’s remarks, and the backlash, come two years after then-Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s comments in support of the democracy movement in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong prompted state broadcaster CCTV to cease broadcasting NBA games and e-commerce vendors to remove listings for Rockets merchandise
Posters show Lebron James embracing a Chinese 100-yuan banknote as protesters gather at the Southern Playground in support of NBA’s Houston Rockets’ team general manager Daryl Morey, who sent a tweet backing the pro-democracy movement in 2019 in Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong supporters protest outside Staples Center ahead of the Lakers vs Clippers NBA season opener in Los Angeles on October 22, 2019
Hundreds of basketball fans gather in Wan Chai Southorn Playground to show support of the Houston Rockets general manager, Daryl Morey and league’s commissioner, Adam Silver on October 15, 2019 in Hong Kong, China
China’s concern over criticism from athletes isn’t limited to just basketball players.
In 2019, soccer star Mesut Ozil as removed from Konami’s eFootball Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) 2020 computer game in China over his comments about the country’s treatment of its Uighur Muslims.
Ozil, a German Muslim of Turkish origin playing for Arsenal at the time, posted messages of social media at the time calling minority Uighurs ‘warriors who resist persecution’ and criticized both China’s crackdown and the silence of Muslims in response.
China’s foreign ministry said Ozil was ‘deceived by fake news’ as social media platforms in the country such as Weibo were flooded with angry messages.
Arsenal was quick to distance itself from Ozil’s comments, saying the club ‘always adhered to the principle of not involving itself in politics’.
Ozil, who now plays in Turkey, did get support from former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who defended his right to express his opinion.
Mesut Ozul (pictred), who now plays for Fenerbahce, was omitted from a video game in China after criticizing the country’s treatment of the Uighurs in the western part of the country
NIKE DENIES SOURCING COTTON FROM XINJIANG PROVINCE
Nike is committed to ethical and responsible manufacturing and we uphold international labor standards. We are concerned about reports of forced labor in, and connected to, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Nike does not source products from the XUAR and we have confirmed with our contract suppliers that they are not using textiles or spun yarn from the region.
The Nike Code of Conduct and Code Leadership Standards have requirements prohibiting any type of prison, forced, bonded or indentured labor, including detailed provisions for freedom of movement and prohibitions on discrimination based on ethnic background or religion. We continue to regularly engage with all of our suppliers to evaluate compliance with Nike’s Code of Conduct and Code Leadership Standards.
We have been conducting ongoing diligence with our suppliers in China to identify and assess potential forced labor risks related to employment of Uyghurs, or other ethnic minorities from XUAR, in other parts of China. Based on evolving information, we strengthened our audit protocols to identify emerging risks related to potential labor transfer programs. Our ongoing diligence has not found evidence of employment of Uyghurs, or other ethnic minorities from XUAR, elsewhere in our supply chain.
Nike does not have relationships with the Haoyuanpeng Clothing Manufacturing, Qingdao Jifa Group, Changji Esquel Textile or any of Esquel’s other facilities in the XUAR, as was inaccurately reported by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Related to the Taekwang Group, when reports of the situation in XUAR began to surface in 2019 Taekwang stopped hiring new employees from the XUAR to its Qingdao facility and an independent third-party audit confirmed there are no longer any employees from XUAR at the facility. Our ongoing diligence has not found evidence of employment of Uyghurs, or other ethnic minorities from the XUAR, elsewhere in our supply chain in China.
While Nike does not directly source cotton, or other raw materials, traceability at the raw materials level is an area of ongoing focus. We are working closely with our suppliers, industry associations, brands and other stakeholders to pilot traceability approaches and map material sources so we can have confidence the materials in our products are responsibly produced.
Nike takes very seriously any reports about forced labor and we have been engaging with multi-stakeholder working groups to assess collective solutions that will help preserve the integrity of our global supply chains. We regularly provide insight and feedback at the request of policymakers on a wide range of public policy issues, including human rights and supply chain integrity, and have not lobbied against the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, or any other proposed forced labor legislation. We will continue to collaborate with industry associations such as Retail Industry Leaders Association, American Apparel & Footwear Association, National Retail Federation and U.S. Fashion Industry Association as well as with industry experts, partners, stakeholders and other organizations to understand, evaluate and address this critical global issue.