The National Basketball Association sells sneakers on its online store from a Chinese company that uses cotton produced in Xinjiang, a region where China coerces Uyghur Muslims into forced labor.
The NBA sells at least two basketball shoes made by Anta Sports, China's largest sportswear brand, which has pledged to source cotton from China's Xinjiang region. One of the shoes—known as the "Klaytheism" for Golden State Warriors superstar Klay Thompson—comes in various models and runs up to $119.99.
In March, the Chinese company said it has "always bought and used cotton produced in China, including Xinjiang cotton" and "will continue to do so." Western countries have raised concerns that cotton produced in Xinjiang, where China detains more than a million Uyghur Muslims in reeducation camps, is tainted with forced labor. According to a December BBC report, China is forcing more than 500,000 ethnic minorities, the majority of whom are Uyghurs, to harvest cotton in Xinjiang, which produces 20 percent of the world's cotton and 85 percent of China's cotton.
At least three NBA stars have worn the Anta brand in recent years, including Thompson, Charlotte Hornets forward Gordon Hayward, and Los Angeles Clippers guard Rajon Rondo. All three players have signature shoes with the company.
The Warriors, Hornets, and Clippers did not respond to requests for comment.
Anta's use of Xinjiang cotton has raised concerns about the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo, where the Chinese company will serve as the official uniform supplier. The International Olympics Committee told Axios this week that it has "been working closely with Anta to monitor the conditions in the factories producing our goods."
In response to reports of forced labor in Xinjiang, the Trump administration sanctioned 11 Chinese companies last year for alleged human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims. Many of the sanctioned companies were suppliers to American brands like Nike, Apple, Google, and Tommy Hilfiger. Facing mounting pressure, Nike reviewed its labor practices and announced it has no ties to companies using Uyghur slave labor.
The NBA did not respond to a request for comment.