Black Clergy Take Aim at NBA and Nike for Chinese Slave Labor

Clergymen condemn corporate China ties, human-rights abuse, and looting

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September 4, 2020

A black Detroit pastor is teaming up with other minority clergymen to condemn Nike, the National Basketball Association, and other multinational corporations for supporting the Black Lives Matter movement while profiteering from slave labor in China.

Rev. Marlin Reid, a black pastor based in Detroit, Mich., accused the multibillion-dollar corporations of hypocrisy for supporting BLM while remaining silent on Chinese human-rights abuses. Reid and the other clergymen condemned the BLM for "possibly [setting] back racial relations for decades," holding the companies culpable for the violence stemming from the BLM movement while they raked in millions of dollars from China.

"There's a connection between  the oppression of the freedom of religion and race here and in China," said Reid. "How can you tolerate the injustice somewhere else, and then profit off of it here in America? They are a prime example of hypocrisy."

The clergymen's comments are indicative of the growing pushback against "woke" U.S. corporations that expressed support for the BLM movement and other progressive agendas. Nike has long aligned itself with the movement, enlisting football quarterback Colin Kaepernick to promote its brand in 2018 after he kneeled during the national anthem in support of BLM. But while it appeared prudent for brands to align themselves with BLM in the immediate aftermath of the death of George Floyd in May, the increasingly violent riots and unrest linked to the movement have alienated some consumers, forcing companies between a rock and a hard place.

Reid and three other founding members of the Conservative Clergy of Color sent a letter to Nike president John Donahoe on Thursday, calling on the company to retract its endorsement of BLM and cut all business ties with China. Activists recently found that Nike depends on Chinese suppliers who use the forced labor of the persecuted Muslim Uighur people, pressuring the $19 billion company to stop sourcing materials from Xinjiang, China.

"You have been happy to play into the hands of anarchists at home and ignore slavery abroad. As leaders in the church, we can abide neither," the letter read.

While the clergymen agreed with some of the "legitimate concerns" held by BLM sympathizers, they firmly rejected the movement for its increasingly radical and violent streaks. The pastors cited reports in which one BLM cofounder described herself as Marxist and some local BLM chapters called for the abolition of capitalism, while the group's official manifesto calls for the disruption of the "Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement."

"What we are seeing today is not indicative of the real DNA that this nation is really founded on," Bishop Aubrey Shines said. "We are now working diligently to make sure that this company specifically, Nike, will … stop pushing a narrative that is sowing into the flames of discord that already exists."

The pastors said that recent violence directly impacted their own communities. Pastor Frankie R. Vega, a Latino clergyman in Atlanta, Ga., said that the recent riots have primarily damaged black-owned businesses in his area. Derek McCoy, a pastor based in Maryland, said a churchgoer told him rioters looted three pharmacies he owned across the city.

"I think protests are great in terms of ... our free speech," McCoy said. "At the same time, when they begin to loot and rob and pillage small businesses … that are the backbone of our country, I think that's just wrong."