Enes Kanter Freedom criticizes China for Uyghur concentration camps. China blacks out Boston Celtics in response 

Freedom calls the sportswear brand, Nike, and the player, Lebron James a hypocrite for not speaking about the issue.

Canada and USA declared China’s treatment of Uyghur’s population a genocide according to the BBC. Approximately 1.8 million Uyghur Muslims are a victim of the concentration camps set in Xinjiang, China. Many nations and human rights groups have condemned the camps for suspected human rights violations such as abuse, rape, and torture. 

On October 22, Enes Kanter Freedom, Boston Celtics centre, spoke up about the genocide of Uyghur Muslims in Beijing, China. He made several tweets calling out the Chinese communist party, the sportswear brand – Nike, and other NBA players like LeBron James.  

The NBA player tweeted out a video of himself discussing the treatment of the Uyghurs at the hands of the Chinese government. Freedom talked about what the CCP has been doing to the Uyghurs at the concentration camps. China was called out for their crimes against humanity and human rights violation.. “The Chinese government has been taking… measures to crack down Uyghur people,” said Freedom “simply because they embrace their own religion, their own culture, language, history, and identity.”  

Freedom also criticized Nike, and LeBron James for not speaking out and being a hypocrite on the subject. “They stand for Black Lives Matter in America – amazing. They stand for the Latino community. No Asian hate. They stand with the LGBTQ community. But when it comes to some of the countries out there, like China, they remain silent. Obviously, they are using these players to become the face, like Cristiano Ronaldo for soccer, LeBron for basketball, and some other athletes. But they’re becoming puppets.” he said about Nike. 

“I feel like we need to be careful of what we are wearing, because every time you put those items on your feet or back, there’s so much blood or sweat or oppression on those items.” 

“Who makes your shoes in China?” asks Freedom.  

Most of Nike’s production happens in China and Vietnam. According to Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), Uyghurs work at factories that are part of the supply chains of at least 82 well-known global companies in the technology, clothing, and automotive industries, including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony, and Volkswagen, under conditions that clearly suggest forced labour. 

Nike released an official statement regarding the case saying that they have no direct relations with Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), and they do not source their products from there. 

LeBron James, who has a lifelong contract with Nike and annually receives $30 million from them was also mentioned in Freedom’s statements. Off from the court, LeBron is also known as an acclaimed social activist. LeBron James Family Foundation was set up on his name to raise money for several charities. In a social media post, Freedom accused LeBron of staying silent for China.  

”Money over Morals for the ‘King.’ Sad & disgusting how these athletes pretend they care about social justice. They really do ‘shut up & dribble’ when Big Boss (China) says so. Did you educate yourself about the slave labour that made your shoes or is that not part of your research?” said in his caption.  

James responded Freedom’s comments, “I don’t give too many people my energy. He’s definitely not someone I would give my energy to.” 

On October 25, Freedom wore custom shoes with the words “Modern Day Slavery” and “No More Excuses” on his team’s win against the Charlotte Hornets. Freedom stated that he was “begged” by the NBA to take off his anti-China sneakers. He refused the request and reminded them of the first amendment, the freedom of speech. The NBA player said that he did not care about being fined or banned from the league, and that he will continue to use his platform to bring attention to the concentration camps China.  

China has been accused of genocide by several countries including USA, and Canada. To suppress the growth of the population, China has mass sterilized the Uyghur women, and separated children from their families, according to Vox. Many relatives of the victims came forward and shared what was going on in the camps.  

Tumaris Yalqun, daughter of Yalqun Rozi – one of the many victims in the concentration camps, shared her father’s arrest for made up crimes on Twitter. According to Radio Free Asia, China completely banned the use of the Uyghur language at all education levels up to and including secondary school. Yalqun Rozi, the chief editor of Uyghur literacy textbooks, was arrested for “inciting subversion of state power.” He was arrested for the same books that went through rigorous government censorships when publish and had been used for more than a decade.  

China’s responded to Freedom’s allegations by wiping the Boston Celtics from NBA broadcasts according to NBA. Freedom was “trying to get attention” and “not worth refuting” according to Chinese government.  

Cover Image: Tomas Roggero

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