The NBA has found itself in another scandal due to their business relationship with China.
On Wednesday, ESPN released a bombshell report in which several American coaches at three NBA training academies in China have come forward to say that Chinese coaches at the camps were “physically abusing young players and failing to provide schooling.”
During an ESPN investigation, American coaches at three NBA training academies in China told league officials their Chinese partners were physically abusing young players.
A former employee compared when he worked in Xinjiang to "World War II Germany." https://t.co/nd4a5njAcx
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 29, 2020
One American coach who worked for the NBA in China described the project as “a sweat camp for athletes.”
At least two coaches left their positions in response to what they believed was mistreatment of young players.
One requested and received a transfer after watching Chinese coaches strike teenage players, three sources told ESPN. Another American coach left before the end of his contract because he found the lack of education in the academies unconscionable: “I couldn’t continue to show up every day, looking at these kids and knowing they would end up being taxi drivers,” he said.
One coach tells the story of how one Chinese coach physically assaulted a young player right in front of him by “kicking him in the gut” and throwing a ball at his face.
The NBA brought in elite coaches and athletic trainers with experience in the G League and Division I basketball to work at the academies. One former coach described watching a Chinese coach fire a ball into a young player’s face at point-blank range and then “kick him in the gut.”
“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,” the coach said. “We’re part of that. The NBA is part of that.”
Multiple coaches reportedly complained about the abuses to the NBA but it’s currently unclear how much information was actually passed on to the league’s office in New York.
Not long after the academies opened, multiple coaches complained about the physical abuse and lack of schooling to Greg Stolt, the league’s vice president for international operations for NBA China, and to other league officials in China, the sources said. It was unclear whether the information was passed on to NBA officials in New York, they said. The NBA declined to make Stolt available for comment.
Tatum said the NBA received “a handful” of complaints that Chinese coaches had mistreated young players and immediately informed local authorities that the league had “zero tolerance” for behavior that was “antithetical to our values.” Tatum said the incidents were not reported at the time to league officials in New York, including himself or Silver.
“I will tell you that the health and wellness of academy athletes and everyone who participates in our program is of the utmost priority,” Tatum said.
Tatum identified four separate incidents, though he said only one was formally reported in writing by an NBA employee. On three of the occasions, the coaches reported witnessing or hearing about physical abuse. The fourth incident involved a player who suffered from heat exhaustion.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver recently revealed that the NBA training camps in the Xianjing province, an area in Western China that has reportedly been the site of human rights abuses against the Uighur Muslims, had been shuttered over a year ago following widespread criticism.
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) July 22, 2020
The NBA’s relationship with China has become a heated topic of discussion in the past year after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey shared a tweet that showed support for pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong. Chinese officials lashed out at the NBA over Morey’s tweet and cut business ties with the league for a brief period of time. Since then many gave criticized the NBA’s decision to continue to do business with the communist country that has a long history of human rights violations.
ESPN’s latest report is definitely a black eye for the league and Adam Silver is going to be forced to answer questions about what went down at the camps in China sooner or later.