NBA Stays Quiet on Chinese Slave Labor

League declines to address Uighur cotton picking in China

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December 15, 2020

The National Basketball Association is remaining quiet on the issue of Chinese slave labor, even after new revelations regarding the nature and size of labor camps housing Uighur Muslims.

Some 85 percent of China's cotton exports come from Xinjiang, where at least one million Uighurs are currently detained in camps, an action that some Republicans say is tantamount to genocide. At least 570,000 laborers in three Chinese provinces picked cotton in the western region of Xinjiang in 2018, according to a new Center for Global Policy report. When BBC reporters visited the region to document its "huge industrial expansion," officials stopped them from filming.

Since the first revelations about the camps, the NBA has not addressed Chinese human-rights violations even as it pursues a social-justice agenda domestically. The league declined to comment when the Washington Free Beacon asked about the BBC report.

The NBA reaped more than $500 million in Chinese revenue in 2019 and inked a $1 billion deal with Beijing tech giant Tencent to exclusively stream games in China. NBA China, a separate entertainment arm of the league, was valued at more than $5 billion by one sports consulting firm in 2019.

While the NBA has publicly supported political expression among progressive players and coaches, it has cracked down on those who criticized China. In 2019, former Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey faced sharp rebuke from his peers for supporting Hong Kong human-rights activists.

Other athletes have sacrificed lucrative careers to speak out against the abuse of Chinese dissidents. Famed European soccer players Mesut Özil and Antoine Griezmann have spoken forcefully against human-rights abuses by the Chinese Communist Party. Özil, a German-born, ethnically Turkish Muslim, has lost millions of dollars in endorsement money for criticizing Beijing's treatment of Uighurs, even being scrubbed from video games sold in China and Chinese internet searches. Griezmann recently severed sponsorship ties with Chinese telecom supergiant Huawei over its role in the regime's surveillance of Uighurs.

Published under: China , NBA , Uighurs