NBA Says China Academies Should Have Had More Oversight amid Abuse Allegations

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 29, 2020

A worker takes down a billboard advertising an NBA preseason basketball game on Thursday between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets in Shanghai, China, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. The NBA has postponed Wednesday's scheduled media sessions in Shanghai for the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers, and it remains unclear if the teams will play in China this week as scheduled. (AP Photo)
Uncredited/Associated Press

The NBA acknowledged the need to make changes after shuttering one of its academies in Xinjiang, China, amid internal complaints of "human rights concerns," according to ESPN's Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada

Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada reported that American coaches had reported that their Chinese peers "were physically abusing young players and failing to provide schooling." The report also said that "American coaches were frequently harassed and surveilled in Xinjiang."

Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger obtained a copy of a letter NBA commissioner Adam Silver wrote to Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) saying the league has severed its partnership with the Xinjiang academy.

NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum spoke about the move to Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada.

"We were somewhat humbled," Tatum said. "One of the lessons that we've learned here is that we do need to have more direct oversight and the ability to make staffing changes when appropriate."

Tatum added that the NBA "did everything that we could, given the limited oversight we had" with regard to addressing issues raised within the academy.

Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada spoke with Jinming Zheng, an assistant professor of sports management at Northumbria University in England. Zheng explained how physical abuse and corporal punishment was viewed as a more effective tactic in training athletes.

Tatum didn't explicitly state the NBA closed the Xinjiang academy because of the reports of abuse, instead saying "many factors" led to the decision.

The NBA's commercial relationship with China became a wide topic of discussion after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey shared a tweet that expressed support for pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong. Chinese officials condemned the message, and the NBA's official partners in the country suspended their involvement with the league.

Silver later said the Chinese government asked the NBA to fire Morey.

Some wondered whether China's response to the league would carry financial repercussions extending into the 2020 offseason. Those fears ultimately looked to be unfounded and pale in comparison to the ongoing impact the COVID-19 pandemic is leaving across the NBA and every major sports league.