CLAY: Enes Kanter, who is a Boston Celtics player, knows all about what it is to not have freedom because he is from Turkey and his family has been imprisoned. There is a warrant for his arrest out over political commentary. He is not able to return to his home country, and he has decided to become I think the first NBA player to speak out against China’s treatment of its people. Yesterday we talked about him discussing the dictatorship that exists for the Tibetan people. Today he just posted a video going directly after China’s treatment of the Uyghur people, demanding that China end slave camps. Listen to this.
ENES KANTER: There is a genocide happening right now, right now as I speak this message. Torture, rape, forced abortions, and sterilization. Family separation. Arbitrary detentions, concentration camps, political reeducation, forced labor. This is all happening right now to more than 1.8 million Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region in north and western China.
CLAY: This is potentially monumental. And for some of you out there you might be saying, why should I care what an athlete says about China? Well, first of all, almost no athlete had been willing to say anything at all about China. China has already pulled Boston Celtics games off of all of its distribution in the country. They have pulled all old Celtics games. They are pulling Celtics paraphernalia off the shelves.
And what’s going on here is we have gotten used to a corporate hierarchy, whether it’s Disney to make sure that their movies get in Chinese theaters, whether it’s Apple to make sure that they can sell the iPhone to Chinese citizens, that there will be no criticism that is allowed of China at all. I even saw, Buck, an interesting write-up about James Bond, we were talking about this I think earlier this week, there’s never been a negative Chinese character in James Bond in like the last 20 years. There’s always a Russian, there’s always some eastern European evildoer.
There’s never a negative association at all with China for fear that they would not then allow the movie to air in their country. And what’s happened is, initially China said, hey, if you’re gonna be in our country, you’re gonna have to play by our rules. But as Chairman Xi’s ambitions have grown, he is now trying to make the world play by Chinese rules. And that’s a significant growth in terms of what the demands of China are. And so many of these athletes out there who want to denigrate America, who want to tear us down, who want to say that America is an awful place have been unwilling to address what Enes Kanter just said, the genocide going on in China.
In fact, Buck, there are NBA players with Chinese shoe deals that the Chinese shoe companies are bragging that their shoes are being made with slave labor from Xinjiang cotton. In other words, we really legitimately have a slavery situation where NBA players’ shoes are being made with cotton from slave labor, and those players are making millions of dollars.
BUCK: Right. What this exposes — right. This exposes that they’re very quick to jump on an attack because they get a lot of social media plaudits for it, NBA players, professional athletes across several leagues will go after police, right? We’ve seen this with LeBron James. We’ve seen this with other players who all of a sudden be very big on either the defund the police movement or talking about systematic police violence or systemic racism in policing or whatever the hashtag may be on any given day.
Even though as we had Heather Mac Donald on what was it, last week, she said was it five or nine, I can’t remember, single digits the number of unarmed black men who have been killed in America this year by police. I mean, to say that this is a national, urgent issue is just a lie the same way that saying that, you know, when CNN claims that a prescribed drug is actually a drug that, you know, is crazy to take, you can say it’s an urgent issue, but based on the numbers it’s absurd to make that claim.
So they’ll speak out against law enforcement in this country and expect to be considered brave, but in China where the NBA does have influence because the Chinese people love watching American professional basketball, right? There’s real the resonance. They won’t speak out. And why? They’re not worried, right? It’s not like any of the NBA players are gonna get thrown in prison for this. They’re not taking some huge risk. Just money. They want the money. They want access to the Chinese market. And this is why in so many ways our cold war with China, which is really what we’re in now, I think people are recognizing that, in some ways more pernicious, more undermining than what we faced with the Soviets because they have entangled themselves deeply into the American economy and into American cultural institutions. I mean, when, you know, Maverick can’t have a Taiwanese patch on the back of his jacket in a movie because he doesn’t want to upset China, you got a problem on your hands.
CLAY: No doubt. And the irony here, of course, is, or the hypocrisy, I guess, more accurately stated, NBA players would play games in China, but they wouldn’t go visit the White House to celebrate winning a championship. So they would shut up and dribble for Chairman Xi and do whatever China requested of them, remember, LeBron James came out and even criticized America’s First Amendment after Daryl Morey, one of the general managers in the NBA, said that he supported Hong Kong freedom. And, by the way, Hong Kong doesn’t have freedom anymore because we just allowed Hong Kong to be taken over. And I think what’s significant here in so many levels is, what is the NBA gonna do now?
Because the NBA has said, hey, we want to be an activist, politically outspoken league. We want to be the woke league of all American sports. They had the slogans on their jerseys, everybody refuses to stand for the national anthem, all of those things, okay? So what happened now when Enes Kanter who, by the way, we’ve reached out to invite onto the program, when Enes Kanter speaks out and says that these things are all true, that we have genocide going on in China, are other NBA players going to support him? Is the league going to issue some sort of statement? And how is China going to respond to these continued statements? Because it took one tweet for them basically to shut down the league overseas. I think the NBA is in a really tough spot.
And to your point yesterday, I think it was, Buck, and I think it was a good one, the major difference between China and the Soviet Union back in the day, in addition to the lack of economic entanglement, there was nobody in 1983 being, like, hey, you know what? Good for Russia. Right? There was nobody bowing down, that I remember, in, like, pop culture to Russia back in the day.
BUCK: It’s been very clear for a long time that the Soviets were a military and political competitor. But we didn’t really believe once you got into the seventies, the eighties that economically speaking their system, I mean we could all see, people were being honest about it, knew that their system was cracking and it was eventually going to fail economically. China’s economic system is not failing. It’s a competitor to us.
BUCK: Right? They act with, it’s an authoritarian state that acts under some market principles to pursue profit. It’s really state-controlled capitalism. And, at some level. And so we have multiple challenges from the Chinese Communist Party that people I think are just waking up to now. And then when you add to this, I mean, China has a billion people, right? Population matters. Population matters.
CLAY: To your point for that movie diplomacy, Top Gun won the Russians are the villains, right? Spoiler alert for anybody who hasn’t seen the first Top Gun yet, that’s how that movie ends, right? Going head-to-head —
BUCK: Actually never really make it all that clear but I think you’re supposed to think that they’re the Russians.
BUCK: The Soviets.
CLAY: Your point, they won’t even let a Taiwan lapel be on Maverick’s jacket. It’s not like the Chinese are the bad guys in Top Gun 2. They won’t even allow the existence of Taiwan’s flag on the jacket for Maverick.
BUCK: Did you see the Red Dawn remake? I believe it’s North Korea that invades.
CLAY: Oh, okay. So that would be a real surprise.
BUCK: Right. Like you think about this —
CLAY: Dealing with famines?
BUCK: Who’s — the original red down it was obviously the Soviets, right? They had a very large army, very large country and our biggest competitor. The new Red Dawn we make I believe, I believe it’s north, I gotta check on this.
CLAY: That’s an amazing list. They can’t even feed their people and they’re gonna fly all over the world to invade America? It seems unlikely.
BUCK: I’m pretty sure that’s how it went down. I gotta check on that one. But I will also say if you want to see what happens when the U.S. bows down too much to the Chinese market in film, watch that Matt Damon movie Great Wall for five minutes. It may be the first movie ever made. Just tell you, it is so bad, it is so bad that you’ll be absolutely shocked when you watch it, when you try to check it out.