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The hypocrisy of Nike


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Why the sportswear giant turned its back on a Turkish NBA star.




Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.’



This was the much-acclaimed quote that Nike led with in a recent campaign featuring American football player Colin Kaepernick. He became a public icon in 2016 for refusing to stand for the US national anthem at games – a protest, he said, against police brutality and systemic racism.


Many have praised Kaepernick as a leader of an important movement, while others have slammed him as an anti-American opportunist. But despite some initial backlash to Nike’s ad campaign, it has been a net win for the company, and was hailed for its ‘brave’ and ‘defiant’ message.



Is this campaign proof, then, that major brands are starting to take matters of social justice seriously, or was it just an empty marketing ploy? Of course, it has turned out to be the latter. Recent comments made by another sports star, Turkish NBA player Enes Kanter, have exposed Nike’s lack of principle.


In the summer of 2016, around the same time as Kaepernick began his protests, an attempted coup against the Turkish government sparked a crackdown on dissenting voices by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Kanter is a longtime critic of the regime and a supporter of US-based Fetullah Gulen, who Erdogan blamed for the coup. And so he became a target.



The New York Knicks player had his Turkish passport revoked, and Erdogan issued a warrant for his arrest. Kanter’s father even had to disown him in a bid to safeguard their family.


Despite playing for a popular NBA team, the 26-year-old cannot find a sponsor. This is because, he says, sportswear companies are wary of damaging their commercial prospects in Turkey. And in an interview with Vice Sports last month, he singled out (you guessed it) Nike as one of those companies:



‘I talked to Nike and they said “we want to give Enes a contract, but if we give him one [the Turkish government] will shut down every store in Turkey, so we cannot”… I’m an NBA player with no shoe deal. No endorsement deal. And I play in New York!’





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