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Nike CEO touts company as ‘of China and for China’

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NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images

Nike's chief executive officer recently made a strong defense of its business prospects in China, issuing comments that are sure to spark controversy regarding where the sports apparel company's loyalties lie.

"Nike is a brand that is of China and for China," insisted Nike CEO John Donahue during an earnings call last week, according to BBC News.

The comments reportedly came as part of a discussion on the company's fourth-quarter earnings. Despite making significant gains across the board, Nike's earnings in China fell short of Wall Street analyst estimates.

The dip appears to be the result of a consumer boycott in the country over a recent statement it made raising concerns about forced labor practices in Xinjiang.

In the statement, the sportswear giant said it was "concerned about reports of forced labor in, and connected to, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR)" and maintained it "does not source products from the XUAR and [has confirmed with] contract suppliers that they are not using textiles or spun yarn from the region."

Last year, Nike — along with several other U.S. companies — came under fire in the West over its alleged use of forced labor linked to the Muslim Uyghur slave trade in Xinjiang, a massive Chinese region where roughly one-fifth of the world's cotton is sourced.

The Chinese Communist Party has characterized Western companies' decisions to avoid using cotton sourced from the region as an effort to hamper the country's economy.

Yet despite the dip in Chinese business, Donahue asserted that the company would double down on its outsized efforts there.

"We've always taken a long-term view. We've been in China for over 40 years," Donahue said.

"We are the largest sport brand there, and we are a brand of China and for China," he reportedly added. "And the biggest asset we have in China is the consumer equity. Consumers feel a strong, deep connection to the Nike, Jordan, and Converse brands in China. And it's real."

Critics of the sportswear company are sure to perceive the move as another example of its bending the knee to communist China in shameless pursuit of more profit.

"Nike cannot serve America and China. It has chosen its master, and it is not us," conservative sports commentator and BlazeTV host Jason Whitlock wrote over the weekend.

He added: "China is a communist-run, authoritarian, racist country. America is (or has been) a democratic republic pursuing freedom and fairness. You can't be of China and for China and serve America."

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