It is always a delicious sight when people who throw stones are found to live in glass houses. For years, the NBA and its principal sponsor, the mammoth Nike Corporation, made a spectacle of their wokeness, to the point of sending out superstar LeBron James to serve as a mouthpiece for his paymasters and affixing the words Black Lives Matter in ostentatiously large print across its arenas post-George Floyd so that no one might possibly believe they’re not down with the cause.
But what happens when these same corporate overlords and woke folk with mesmerizing athletic skills, but embarrassingly scant knowledge of the issues they pretend to understand and about which they pontificate in public, are called out for rank hypocrisy by one of their own? And what happens when they are unable to fend off and shut down the righteous criticism because it is occurring so publicly, threatening to heap long-deserved shame on an enterprise that would be bought off by tyrants?
Well, that is the dilemma the uber-woke NBA is facing right now with the outspoken criticism from the heroic Enes Kanter, forward for the Boston Celtics. The Muslim hailing from Turkey will not bow to his masters. Quite the opposite. He refuses to be silenced and has even been willing to call out the sainted LeBron, four-time MVP and four-time NBA champion, for his complicity in a tragedy the world has mostly ignored but that is deeply personal to Kanter. But it gets even worse for the forces of wokeness who bang on constantly about systemic racism. Kanter is so enamored of America, so over-the-moon crazy about this country, that upon finally being granted his cherished U.S. citizenship this week, he had his name legally changed to Enes Kanter Freedom. You read that right.
So what is the issue that has Kanter so worked up that he is willing to play David to the NBA Goliath? We have heard the league’s deafening silence as China overran Hong Kong — incredibly, one NBA executive was disciplined for daring to speak out about it — and of its increasingly threatening posture toward Taiwan since Joe Biden became president. But other than a passing mention by politicians out to check all the boxes and prove their hard line on China, the fate of hundreds of thousands of Uyghur Muslims imprisoned by the Chinese communist regime has been largely — and conveniently — overlooked.
And it’s no wonder, given the billions of dollars at play in the NBA’s relationship with Nike, which in turn relies on cheap labor in China, among dozens of other countries, to ring up massive profits. In fact, the global behemoth is peaking, its sales up a breathtaking 196% from the previous year. So it is a particularly inauspicious time to rock the boat of American public opinion about the company and its ties to a regime that has filled concentration camps with the largest mass internment of an ethnic-religious minority group since World War II. Talk about courage: Kanter recently tweeted, “Money over Morals for the ‘King,’” as he wore sneakers during a recent game portraying LeBron bowing down to be crowned by President-for-Life Xi Jinping.
Is it acceptable to the woke folk of Nike and the NBA, all worked into a lather about systemic racism in the United States that somewhere between one and three million Uyghurs have been herded into “re-education centers” and psychological indoctrination programs, forced to study communist propaganda and honor Xi Jinping? Widespread reports indicate that the government has employed waterboarding and other forms of torture, including sexual abuse. And yet, Nike’s chief executive John Donahoe explicitly — and proudly, it seems — in June of this year declared, “Nike is a brand that is of China and for China.”
We all remember that lone, lionhearted figure in Tiananmen Square years ago, the haunting image of that solitary individual standing up to the forces of totalitarian tyranny. He demonstrated just how much of a difference a single person can make in a dark world. Uyghurs and all the victims of communist tyranny in China can be grateful that, as China apologists continue to conveniently ignore them, their cause has been brought to the attention of the world by another lone, courageous voice in the wilderness of wokeness. Welcome to America, Enes Kanter Freedom.
~ Read more from Tim Donner.