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Courage: NBA Player Intensifies Criticism of China, Calls Out Nike and LeBron

Screenshot via YouTube

One may not agree with Boston Celtics Center Enes Kanter on every aspect of his activism, but it's hard not to respect the hell out of the moral stand he's taking against the Chinese Communist Party and its abettors. Many virtue signalers and preeners like to cast themselves as brave, and to be lauded for their "courage." Kantor actually deserves such approbation, in this case. He knows that the CCP has zero tolerance for dissent, and has used its economic muscles to silence and punish critics, bending Western institutions – from industries to companies to organizations to governments – to the will of Beijing. But Kanter has spoken out against his native country's leadership, a potential risk to his own safety, so he's unfazed by the wrath of Chairman Xi. What started with intense criticism of China on Tibet grew into strong advocacy on behalf of oppressed Uighurs. As Spencer and Leah have covered recently, Kanter has not been subtle or diplomatic. He's identifying evil (actual genocide) and treating it as such: 

What came as a truly pleasant surprise, and is likely a source of no small measure of agita within NBA circles, is Kanter's decision to broaden out his critique to include Nike – home to some of the biggest woke phonies in all of corporate America. Kanter directly addressed the sneaker giant's leaders, noting that they preach one thing at home, then look the other way on atrocities in China: 

"Here, in the United States, Nike stands with Black Lives Matter, Nike stands with Stop Asian Hate, Nike stands with the Latino community, and Nike stands with the LGBTQ community. And Nike remains vocal about injustice here in America. But when it comes to China, 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 are scared to speak up."

My only real quibble with this forceful display is that Nike has not merely been "silent" on China's myriad abuses. It's worse than that. When another NBA figure, then-Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey, published a single tweet in favor of democracy in Hong Kong, the fallout was swift. The CCP censored broadcasts of Rockets games in China. Major superstars like LeBron James and Steph Curry blasted Morey, with LeBron reportedly lobbying behind the scenes for the executive to be punished for his free speech. There was a lot of sweet, sweet money on the line, after all.  And Nike, a titan in the sports apparel world, pulled Rockets gear from Chinese shelves. In appeasement-minded solidarity with Communist China. Against democracy. This is far more appalling than silence; it's active, profit-driven complicity. 

Nike ended up getting some bad press in China anyway for declining to use slave labor from Xinjiang province, but they're playing a long game. As Nike's CEO said, the company "is a brand of China and for China." Kanter, to his everlasting credit, takes a different view, even as some of the same retaliatory tactics are underway. And he plainly doesn't care if he gets bullied by his selfish, inauthentic peers. Kanter has predictably gotten some blowback for his, but he seems emboldened by it, doubling down in his righteous targeting of Nike. His entire crusade on these issues is an implicit rebuke of LeBron, of course, but he made it explicit by personally tagging "King James": 

Will 'Bron respond with some half-baked rant laced with entirely misplaced self-righteousness about Kanter being "misinformed" or "harming" people "financially, physically, emotionally, spiritually." That was his garbage take on Morey. Will he engage with Kanter? How will he react? Will Phil Knight? Or are they waiting on guidance from CCP headquarters first, lest they jeopardize wealth? 

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