The NBA season is back after a more than four-month delay due to the coronavirus pandemic – but the league is already facing big questions about its conduct off the court as a new report details ugly abuses at its basketball program in China.
ESPN claims the league has been helping China to operate three facilities where children were abused by the staff.
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One former coach told ESPN that he watched 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 told ESPN. “We’re part of that. The NBA is part of that.”
One source told ESPN that the conditions in one facility were akin to “World War II Germany.”
And a former coach said it was clear who was running the show – and it wasn’t the NBA.
“We were basically working for the Chinese government,” the unnamed coach told the sports network.
An NBA spokesperson told the New York Times that the allegations are “disturbing” — that the league has closed one camp and is now “reevaluating” the rest of the program.
The three camps were part of a 2016 deal the league struck with China. The camps were already in operation at the time, but NBA chief Adam Silver said the league would join to treat the young athletes “holistically” and “with focuses on education, leadership, character development and life skills.”
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Instead, one American coach told ESPN the project was “a sweat camp for athletes.”
The camps were also supposed to supply education as well as basketball, but ESPN said at least one coach quit because the kids were not being schooled.
One of the camps was in Xinjiang, where an estimated 1 million Uighur Muslims are kept in concentration camps as part of an effort intended to essentially eliminate the culture.
The NBA told Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., earlier this month that it closed the Xinjiang camp last year, but ESPN’s sources disputed that timeline.
— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) July 29, 2020
A spokesperson for Blackburn told Fox News that the senator “intends to follow up with the NBA promptly to get to the bottom of the league’s presence in Xinjiang.”
The NBA more than any other league has attempted to turn China into a profit center – something that can only happen with the blessing of Beijing. But those cozy ties have led to a series of shocking incidents that show just how far the league will go to protect its relationship with the country’s communist leaders.
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Last year, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted a comment in support of pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, leading to an international incident.
The Chinese government suspended its ties with the Rockets and yanked NBA games from TV. Morey deleted the tweet and explained that he was “merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event.”
Rockers owner Tilman Fertitta also distanced himself and the team from Morey:
Listen….@dmorey does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets. Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the @NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization. @espn https://t.co/yNyQFtwTTi
— Tilman Fertitta (@TilmanJFertitta) October 5, 2019
The NBA attempted mop-up work, with critics saying they caved to the regime in Beijing.
Fear of angering China has even silenced the NBA’s biggest loudmouth as Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban seems to be at a loss for words on the issue.
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Cuban got into a Twitter spat with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) after Cuban said “bye” to a fan who threatened to leave if players knelt during the anthem.
Cruz challenged Cuban to be as critical of China as he is of his own country, tweeting:
Still no answer from @mcuban
Let’s try simpler. Mark, tough guy, can you say “Free Hong Kong”?
Can your players put that on their jerseys?
Can you condemn the CCP’s concentration camps w/ 1 million Uyghurs?
Can you say ANYTHING other than “Chairman Mao is beautiful & wise”? https://t.co/0XpLRaFSw2
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 20, 2020
Cuban wouldn’t budge, instead saying that he would not get “involved in the domestic policies of ANY foreign country.”
More than 24 hours after the latest allegations about the NBA and China, Cuban’s normally active Twitter feed was silent.
— Walter W. Murray is a reporter for The Horn News. He is an outspoken conservative and a survival expert, and is the author of “America’s Final Warning.”