According to an ESPN investigation, American coaches at three NBA academies in China told league officials that employees and coaches were abusing young players and failing to provide schooling, including one in Xinjiang that has been closed.
NBA Deputy commissioner and chief operating officer Mark Tatum said that they are reevaluating and considering other opportunities for the academy program.
Physical violence & Lack of Education
The NBA received multiple reports of physical violence against players. In one incident, a Chinese coach allegedly threw a ball at a player’s face before kicking him in the stomach. There was also an incident involving a player who suffered from heat exhaustion.
Bruce Palmer, former technical director of a private basketball school that had a sponsorship agreement with the league in Dongguan in southern China, routinely had to tell coaches in China not to physically harm the athletes. He warned them that such actions can not be tolerated in an NBA training center. However, coaches saw it as an integral part of training and the school’s headmaster told him that hitting kids has been proven to be an effective teaching tool.
Along with the physical violence, the young athletes lived in cramped dormitories and had to adjust to hectic schedules. The rooms they stayed in were meant for only two people, but a former coach said that bunk beds were used to put as many as eight to 10 athletes in a room. The players also had to train two to three times a day with few extracurricular activities.
One of the main purposes of the NBA academies in China was education. Commissioner Adam Silver had said that education would be central to the program. Nevertheless, the league was informed about the lack of education and schooling in the academies.
“I couldn’t continue to show up every day, looking at these kids and knowing they would end up being taxi drivers,” said one coach who left before the end of his contract due to the lack of schooling players.
NBA Cut ties with Academy in Xinjiang
After running into a myriad of problems with academies in Xinjiang, the NBA decided to end relationship with the academy and closed it down. The league cut ties after finding out the police state is where more than a million Uighur Muslims are held into captive in concentration camps. Due to some of the greatest human rights violations, the NBA abandoned its footprint in Xinjiang.
NBA games have been off air in China since October, when Houston Rockets manager Daryl Morey tweeted a photo that said “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong.” The cost of the league not having broadcasted in China has led to the loss of revenue of nearly $400 million.
Establishment of NBA Academies in China
In 2016, the NBA announced the launch of NBA Academies and the first three were established in China, including one in Xianjing.
During the time, the NBA released the statement:
“NBA Academies will support existing international basketball academies by exposing elite prospects to NBA-level coaching, facilities and competition and by providing a global framework for elite-level prospects to maximize their success. The initiative will employ a holistic, 360-degree approach to player development with focuses on education, leadership, character development and life skills.”