ESPN investigation finds coaches at NBA China academies complained of player abuse, lack of schooling
Category: News & PoliticsVia: s • one week ago • 9 comments
LONG BEFORE AN October tweet in support of Hong Kong protesters spotlighted the NBA's complicated relationship with China, the league faced complaints from its own employees over human rights concerns inside an NBA youth-development program in that country, an ESPN investigation has found.
American coaches at three NBA training academies in China told league officials their Chinese partners were physically abusing young players and failing to provide schooling, even though commissioner Adam Silver had said that education would be central to the program, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the complaints.
The NBA ran into myriad problems by opening one of the academies in Xinjiang, a police state in western China where more than a million Uighur Muslims are now held in barbed-wire camps. American coaches were frequently harassed and surveilled in Xinjiang, the sources said. One American coach was detained three times without cause; he and others were unable to obtain housing because of their status as foreigners.
A former league employee compared the atmosphere when he worked in Xinjiang to "World War II Germany."..
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.
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."
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.
IN XINJIANG, THE NBA opened an academy in a region notorious for human rights abuses.
In recent years, the Chinese government has escalated its use of high-tech surveillance, restricted freedom of movement and erected mass internment facilities, which the government describes as vocational training centers and critics describe as concentration camps holding ethnic minorities, particularly Uighur Muslims. The government says the policy is necessary to combat terrorism. In September, the United States joined more than 30 countries in condemning "China's horrific campaign of repression" against the Uighurs. Reports of separatist violence and Chinese government repression in Xinjiang go back decades.
"You can't have it both ways," the former employee said. "... You can't be over here in February promoting Black History Month and be over in China, where they're in reeducation camps and all the people that you're partnering with are hitting kids."