Despite the seriousness of the allegations of physical abuse and a lack of education of athletes, on July 30 CNN’s Wolf Blitzer interviewed for more than 15 minutes NBA Commissioner Adam Silver without mentioning the subject and focusing on the challenges of resuming the season amid the pandemic, reported Fox News.
On July 29, 2020, ESPN ran an investigative report on its website called “ESPN investigation finds coaches at NBA China academies complained of player abuse, lack of schooling” which denounce alleged physical abuse to students at the NBA’s facilities in China as well as lack of education.
Notably, CNN partner company, Time Warner is also a TV partner of the NBA.
The NBA has faced strict scrutiny for its double standard; advocating in the United States for social justice issues, but censoring Hong Kong pro-democracy messages not to upset the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
A former NBA employee said, “You can’t have it both ways. You can’t be over here in February promoting Black History Month and be over in China, where they’re in re-education camps, and all the people that you’re partnering with are hitting kids.”
But according to the story run by ESPN, the NBA’s lack of principles goes beyond that.
According to several dozen reports by prominent human rights lawyers as well as NGOs, human rights abuses have been taking place for more than two decades in China and are all well documented. But since President Donald Trump’s administration began to hold Beijing accountable for its crimes, these issues have gained more attention.
In 2016, the NBA opened three training facilities, with one in the Xinjiang region, that recently made the headlines over the footage of what looks like a concentration camp holding Uighurs, a Muslim minority in the province. The image resembled those of the Holocaust, with men there, with shaved heads, blindfolded, handcuffed, and ready to board a train.
In August 2018, the magazine Slate, ran an article titled, “Why Is the NBA in Xinjiang? The league is running a training center in the middle of one of the world’s worst humanitarian atrocities.”
After repeated criticism, reportedly the NBA closed the facility about a year ago but did never mentioned the human rights abuses.
In the ESPN investigation, the journalists spoke to former NBA coaches that worked in the Chinese facilities, who spoke of the physical abuse kids between 11 and 14 years old suffered while training.
One of the former employees recalled watching a Chinese coach “fire a ball into a young player’s face at point-blank range and then kick him in the gut.”
Some Chinese said physical punishment is part of the training and it’s proven to be effective, but others argue that violence can harm an athlete’s character.
The NBA program in China was initially created to train elite athletes given the fervent love for the game of the Chinese people and growing interest in it. The business revenue is said to be around $5 billion a year. The program included the education of the trainees but according to the testimony of the former employees, that was not the case.
One American coach who worked for the NBA in China described the project as “a sweat camp for athletes.”
Another American coach left before the end of his contract for the same reason. He said, “I couldn’t continue to show up every day, looking at these kids and knowing they would end up being taxi drivers.”
The story also mentions that the program did not have the oversight it required, and it was basically under Chinese Communist Party management. A former coach told ESPN, “We were basically working for the Chinese government [CCP].”
After the backlash, Mark Tatum, the NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer, told ESPN that the league is “re-evaluating” and “considering other opportunities” for the program.