According to an ESPN report released on Wednesday, the NBA’s China academies are abusing young players.
The article also alleges that the NBA had been warned of the abuses. The NBA reportedly told coaches not to comment on China for the story.
Since late last year, the NBA has been quiet about its controversial relationship with China, refusing to openly condemn many of the human rights abuses that the Chinese government continues to inflict on its people.
Props to ESPN for covering all this. NBA’s refusal to condemn China at all is glaring. Even in this story when confronted with horrific human rights abuses NBA dodged any criticism of China. League is full of hypocrites.
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) July 29, 2020
According to ESPN, American coaches from three NBA training academies in China told NBA officials that the league’s Chinese partners were physically abusing young players and refusing to provide education, despite the fact that NBA commissioner Adam Silver had said education would be central to their program.
One of the American coaches went as far as to describe the project was “a sweat camp for athletes.”
“Imagine you have a kid who’s 13, 14 years old, and you’ve got a grown coach who is 40 years old hitting your kid,” another coach said.
“We’re part of that. The NBA is part of that.”
Multiple coaches made complaints about the abuses to the league’s vice president for international operations in China, Greg Stolt, as well as various other league officials.
NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer Mark Tatum told ESPN that the league had received “a handful” of complaints regarding the mistreatment of young Chinese players, which prompted the NBA to warn Chinese local authorities that the league had “zero tolerance” for such behavior.
Perhaps the most troubling of all of the NBA China camps was the camp in Xinjiang, a police state located in western China.
The Xinjiang region is known for its Uighur population. China is currently enacting a cultural genocide of the Uighurs, a majority Muslim ethnic minority in China.
Multiple reports indicate that the Uighurs in China are undergoing forced sterilization in order to limit their population growth.
Uighurs are also being captured and transported to labor camps. A recently unearthed video originally released in September 2019 revealed large groups of Uighurs, blindfolded and bound, being marched onto train cars.
Uighurs sitting, bound and blindfolded, waiting to be loaded onto train cars and taken — somewhere.
— PariahDog1312?⚖️ (@PDog119) July 15, 2020
The majority of players in the NBA’s Xinjiang academy were Uighurs.
ESPN reports that multiple coaches were frequently harassed and surveilled in the Xinjiang region, with one coach describing the atmosphere as akin to “World War II Germany.”
Corbin Loubert, an NBA strength coach who worked in Xinjiang last fall, confirmed that reports of discrimination and harassment were true in a tweet responding to a CNN story.
It was a challenging year for many reasons, but one of the biggest challenges was not only the discrimination and harassment I faced, but turning a blind eye to the discrimination and harassment that the Uyghur people around me faced.
— Corbin Loubert (@CLoubert01) May 10, 2019
“I spent the past year living in Xinjiang, and can confirm every word of this piece is true,” Loubert tweeted.
“It was a challenging year for many reasons, but one of the biggest challenges was not only the discrimination and harassment I faced, but turning a blind eye to the discrimination and harassment that the Uyghur people around me faced.”
In a June 30 letter, Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee questioned the NBA about its relationship with China, specifically mentioning the treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang. Tatum responded to Blackburn with a letter on July 21 announcing that the NBA had discontinued the Xinjiang academy.
Despite harsh criticism for several months now, the NBA has decided to remain silent on its controversial relationship with China.
In a July 10 letter, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri criticized the NBA’s July 3 decision to allow players to wear certain social and political messages on their jerseys in support of movements like Black Lives Matter, especially considering the league’s unwillingness to call out the Chinese government.
“On July 3, the National Basketball Association (NBA) came to an agreement with the NBA players union allowing players to wear certain social and political messages on their jerseys, almost all aligned with the message of recent anti-police protests,” Hawley wrote.
“Conspicuously missing from the list of approved phrases are any in support of the victims of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), including the people of Hong Kong, whose remaining freedoms are being extinguished by the CCP’s newly-enacted national security law. Given the NBA’s troubled history of excusing and apologizing for the brutal repression of the Chinese Communist regime, these omissions are striking.”
Hawley then demanded that the NBA answer a series of questions, including —
- Are public reports correct that the list of phrases approved for display on NBA players’ jerseys does not include messages in support of victims of the Chinese Communist Party?
- If a player chooses to display a message of support for victims of the Chinese Community Party on their jersey, will the NBA allow the player to wear their jersey or will it censor that player in order to avoid drawing Beijing’s ire?
- How does the NBA plan to defend NBA players and employees against retaliation by the Chinese Communist Party if they choose to speak out against the Party’s actions in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, or elsewhere?
- Is the NBA prepared to publicly condemn any attempt by the Chinese Communist Party to silence or punish these individuals?
On Wednesday, the same day that ESPN released its report of various abuses in the NBA’s Chinese academies, the league responded to Hawley by confirming that only a select few social justice messages were allowed, one of which is “Black Lives Matter.”
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) July 29, 2020
In response to Hawley’s question about the league defending its players, the NBA replied by saying, “We are respectfully unable to respond to this hypothetical question.”
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