NBA Responds To Questions About It's Close Ties With China

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The NBA halted the season on March 11, 2020 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first player to test positive for deadly COVID-19
The NBA halted the season on March 11, 2020 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first player to test positive for deadly COVID-19 GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Jeenah Moon

The NBA has responded to questions from a US senator about its close ties with China. 

In a letter addressed to Sen. Marsha Blackburb, R-Tenn., the National Basketball Association clarified that it has already cut its partnership with Xinjiang basketball academy. The autonomous region of Xinjiang has developed a bad reputation for its reported inhumane treatment of Uyghurs, a Muslim minority in the country. 

“The NBA has had no involvement with the Xinjiang basketball academy for more than a year, and the relationship has been terminated,” Mark Tatum, NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer, wrote in the letter obtained by Sports Illustrated

Tatum was responding to Sen. Blackburn’s June 30 letter addressed to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, expressing her “concern” over the league’s dealings with the Communist Party of China. The senator posted questions she asked the league to clarify, including its relationship with Alibaba and the NBA training center in Xinjiang. 

“While the NBA has worked hard to raise awareness of social issues at home, there is concern that the league has turned a blind eye to human rights abuses committed abroad—even bowing down to pressure last year,” the letter said. “The actions of the NBA and some players have created an appearance that your league prioritizes profit over principle.”

Tatum also clarified that the NBA’s multi-year contract with Alibaba “primarily concerns the distribution of NBA content on Alibaba’s digital platforms in China.”

The NBA continues to receive flack for working closely with China. On Tuesday, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., also accused the league of profiting off slave labor in the country. Hawley called the NBA a “classic” example, citing all its uniforms are made by Uyghurs in concentration camps.

“I would challenge the NBA, Adam Silver, all the endorsers of Nike products like LeBron to take a pledge that they will be slave free, that they will not use in their product lines slave labor,” said Hawley on “ Fox News Tuesday.”

He called on corporate leaders to pledge to be “#slavefree.”

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