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NBA’s Kanter unveils spying Pooh-bear Xi Jinping shoes in latest dig at Communist China

Enes Kanter, then of the Portland Trail Blazers, on May 18, 2019 at Moda Center in Portland, Ore. (Frenchieinportland/Wikimedia Commons)
November 23, 2021

Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter debuted a new pair of shoes depicting Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping as a surveillance-obsessed Winnie-the-Pooh character holding a pair of binoculars and using ranks of CCTV cameras to watch over his citizens. The shoes are Kanter’s latest in a series of shoes decorated with critical depictions of the Chinese government.

Kanter tweeted, “Xi Jinping is a control freak! The Chinese government’s surveillance tech is creating a database about everyone, monitoring everyday life demanding loyalty to the party silencing anything & anyone they consider a threat. This digital authoritarianism is a threat to democracies.”

On one side of the shoe is the message “Xi is a control freak.”

In an Instagram post, Kanter shared the same images and message, with the added touch of setting his post location to The Dictator.

The reference to Xi as Winnie-the-Pooh is another dig at the Chinese leader. Since 2018, Chinese authorities have cracked down on images of Winnie-the-Pooh amid the viral spread of memes comparing Xi to the childhood cartoon character.

Kanter has been an outspoken critic of the Chinese government.

Last month, Kanter called out Nike and James’ friendly relationship with the Chinese communist government, which is forcing Uyghurs – a Muslim minority group in China – into labor camps. The basketball player demanded that Nike end what he called “modern day slavery.”

Last week, Kanter shared photos of another pair of customized shoes criticizing Lakers player Lebron James for his business ties to China. Those shoes particularly criticized James for being a vocal proponent of various social justice issues, while profiting off of Nike shoe sales while the company has been accused of relying on Chinese sweatshops for its shoe production.

“Money over Morals for the ‘King.’ Sad & disgusting how these athletes pretend they care about social justice,” Kanter tweeted. “They really do ‘shut up & dribble’ when Big Boss [China] says so. Did you educate yourself about the slave labor that made your shoes or is that not part of your research?”

Kanter’s comments about James educating himself are in likely reference to a comment James made in 2019 in response to Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who had tweeted in support of Hong Kong protesters opposing the Chinese legislative takeover of the semi-autonomous territory. James had said Morey was “misinformed” for sharing the tweet and “wasn’t educated on the situation at hand.”

Earlier this month, Kanter also said he was facing pressure from the NBA to lower his criticism of the Chinese government and China’s ruling CCP. He said the league threatened to ban him if his criticisms continued.