ESPN investigation reveals human rights abuses at NBA-run sports camps in China

by Joel Abbott · Jul 31st, 2020 12:10 pm
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Last Updated Jul 31st, 2020 at 7:59 pm

An investigation by ESPN has revealed a myriad of potential human rights abuses happening in NBA-run sports camps in China, according to a report published Wednesday.

The report reveals that three NBA-run sports camps in China, launched in 2016 to recruit Chinese talent, were run out of facilities operated by the Chinese Communist Party. League employees and coaches detailed the abuses they saw at the camps.

"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," one coach said. "We're part of that. The NBA is part of that."

Other employees described the camps as "a sweat camp for athletes," "World War II Germany," and "basically working for the Chinese government."

The report also said the young players live in cramped dormitories and have no schooling outside of the camps.

ESPN's began its investigation in October 2019, following the controversy started by a tweet from the general manager of the Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey, in support of Hong Kong. After NBA Commissioner Adam Silver defended the tweet, the Chinese government banned NBA games from state-controlled TV, costing the league hundreds of millions of dollars.

This disparity between the NBA's response to social justice causes in America and China has drawn sharp criticism. The NBA has been very vocal of its support for the Black Lives Matters movement and LGBT platforms, even moving its 2017 All-Star game out of North Carolina due to a state law barring transgender individuals from using public restrooms for the opposite sex.

"You can't have it both ways," said one former employee who worked in China. "You can't be over here in February promoting Black History Month and be over in China, where they're in reeducation camps and all the people that you're partnering with are hitting kids."

Similar criticisms have come from Congress regarding the NBA's ties to China. Last month, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) sent a letter to Silver slamming the league's apparent hypocrisy.

"Your league's business interests are closely intertwined with Communist China's estimated $4 billion NBA market," Blackburn wrote. "While the NBA has worked hard to raise awareness of social issues at home, there is concern that the league has turned a blind eye to human rights abuses committed abroad — even bowing down to pressure last year."


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