A U.S. Congressional committee tasked with addressing relations with China’s Communist Party (CCP) issued a letter Tuesday urging National Basketball Association (NBA) players to terminate their contracts with sports apparel firms that use materials made in Chinese slave labor camps. With the measure, the committee seeks to stop funding the perverse system of human exploitation developed by the Asian giant.

The letter sent by the chairmen of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Committee on China states that more than a dozen NBA players have current agreements with sportswear firms ANTA, Li-Ning, and Peak, according to Reuters.

According to reports, the brands mentioned remain based in China and continue to use cotton from Xinjiang, where allegations claim many slave labor camps where prisoners persecuted for their religious beliefs are exploited.

“We believe that commercial relationships with companies that source cotton in Xinjiang create reputational risks for NBA players and the NBA itself,” the congressmen said in the letter.

The committee members recalled that the U.S. government has officially accused the CCP of committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang due to forced labor camps that imprison millions of members of the Uighur Muslim minority, among other religions and faiths.

The federal government during the Trump administration took steps to ban imports of cotton and other products from the region.

“The NBA and NBA players should not even implicitly be endorsing such horrific human rights abuses,” the letter claims. Adding that, the companies the players are working with have publicly embraced Xinjiang cotton, “making them complicit in the use of forced labor.”

In this regard, the committee called on the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) to work with its members to raise awareness of the ongoing genocide in Xinjiang and the severe consequences of forced labor in producing products made by brands that NBPA members have endorsed.

“We hope that the result of such efforts would be that the players would leverage their contracts with Anta, Li-Ning, and Peak to push these companies to end their use of Xinjiang cotton. Short of that outcome, we encourage players to end their endorsement deals with these companies,” the congressmen said.

The NBA has played a rather sad role in its relationship with the CCP and its lack of commitment to human rights. However, being an institution of enormous weight as the NBA is, it could demonstrate a minimum quota of social responsibility by exerting pressure to stop aberrant acts such as those happening under the communist regime. 

The NBA has limited itself to regard China as a business and a source of valuable profits. It is paying no regard to the welfare of people inside China and the consequences of empowering the CCP and its system of exploitation. 

The NBA has frequently refused to comment on the forced labor camps and the CCP’s irregularities. In fact, NBA commissioner Adam Silver recently claimed that the NBA’s $1 billion deals with China are a “net plus” for global diplomacy.

In 2019, the NBA suffered what its CEO described as “substantial” losses after an online comment by a Houston Rockets team executive sparked a backlash in China.

After Houston Rockets manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, state broadcaster CCTV and Tencent Holdings, which broadcasts NBA games in China, announced they would stop airing Rockets games.

The decision of the Chinese authorities implied multi-million dollar losses for the NBA, which has tried several ways to make excuses to please the CCP. On several occasions, the NBA prioritized economic gain over social responsibility due to its reaching so many people worldwide.

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