An ESPN investigation has discovered complaints by NBA employees of human rights concerns regarding an NBA youth-development program in China.
Americans working at three different training academies in China told higher-ups their Chinese co-workers were abusing players and failing to provide an adequate education as league commissioner Adam Silver promised.
One academy, likely the worst of the three, was located in Xinjiang where over one million Uyghur Muslims are being held in concentration camps.
An American coach living in Xinjiang compared the state to “WWII Germany,” and another was detained by local authorities without cause three times.
Because of their status as foreigners, many of the Americans working at the Xinjiang NBA academy were unable to find housing.
The league announced the closing of the Xinjiang academy just last week, but in an interview with ESPN, NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer Mark Tatum didn’t say if human rights violations played a role in the decision.
ESPN also reports that the NBA specifically instructed employees not to talk with the outlet regarding this investigation, therefore, those who decided to share their stories wish to remain anonymous.
A league PR official even emailed a former coach, instructing them, “Please don’t mention that you have been advised by the NBA not to respond.”
At least two coaches quit their jobs over the mistreatment of young players and another compared the academies to a “sweat camp for athletes.”
Multiple coaches reported Chinese coaches repeatedly striking teenage players, one coach requesting a transfer after witnessing the abuse.
One American coach described watching a Chinese coach throw a ball at a player’s face from point-blank range before kicking him on the ground.
“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,” he told ESPN. “We’re part of that. The NBA is part of that.”
The NBA’s financial connections to China have been under scrutiny for years, especially since Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for protesters in Hong Kong which cost the league hundreds of millions of dollars.
Because of the monetary relationship between the league and the communist nation, the NBA appears reluctant to criticize the country’s treatment of the Uyghurs or pro-Democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong.
Did this same cozy connection convince league officials to cover-up potential human rights violations against teenage players at the Chinese basketball camps?
Owen demonstrates in real-time what happens when you try to write certain messages into the custom NBA league creator.