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Volume 27 No. 29
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Report Details Alleged Abuse At NBA Academies In China

The NBA last year "faced complaints from its own employees over human rights concerns inside an NBA youth-development program" in China, according to Fainaru & Fainaru-Wada of ESPN.com. Sources said that 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." 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." Sources said that American coaches were "frequently harassed and surveilled in Xinjiang."

NBA REEVALUATING SITUATION: NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Mark Tatum, who oversees int'l operations, said the NBA is "reevaluating" and "considering other opportunities" for the academy program, which operates out of sports facilities run by the Chinese government. Last week, the league "acknowledged for the first time it had closed the Xinjiang academy, but, when pressed, Tatum declined to say whether human rights were a factor." Tatum said, "We were somewhat humbled. 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." Michael Ma was named NBA China CEO in May after Derek Chang stepped down from the role.

INCIDENT REPORTS: Tatum said that 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 also noted that the incidents were "not reported at the time to league officials in New York, including himself or Silver." NBA sources said that many of the league's problems "stemmed from the decision to embed the academies in government-run sports facilities." Tatum said that the facilities "gave the NBA access to existing infrastructure and elite players." But the arrangement "put NBA activities under the direction of Chinese officials who selected the players and helped define the training." In hindsight, Tatum said that the NBA "might have been 'a little bit naive' to believe the structure gave the league sufficient oversight" (ESPN.com, 7/29).