CNN, MSNBC avoid explosive NBA story of human rights abuses at its China training academies

Sen. Tom Cotton on report of human rights abuse at NBA training academies in China

From human rights abuses to the treatment of Hong Kong, the NBA’s stance on China is very disappointing, says Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

ESPN ran earlier this week an explosive story about human rights abuses that allegedly took place at the NBA's training academies in China, but viewers of CNN and MSNBC have been kept in the dark about it.

The bombshell report alleged that the young participants in the NBA program were physically beaten by Chinese instructors and were not provided proper schooling, despite commissioner Adam Silver's previous commitment that education would be "central" to the program.

"A former league employee compared the atmosphere when he worked in Xinjiang to 'World War II Germany,'" ESPN reported.

China wasn't mentioned either in CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer's lengthy interview with NBA commissioner Silver, which took place nearly two hours after ESPN published its report.

Instead, Blitzer spent the roughly 16-minute interview discussing the NBA's ability to resume its season amid the coronavirus outbreak.

CNN is notably a TimeWarner-owned sister network of TNT, which has a major partnership with the NBA.

Both liberal networks had also failed to address the reportedly abusive training academies on their websites, as of Thursday night.

ESPN's report detailed how the NBA training academies in China appeared to be largely under the control of the Chinese government, with one coach who worked for the program calling it "a sweat camp for athletes."

"We were basically working for the Chinese government," one former coach told ESPN.

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Multiple NBA employees filed complaints about how they witnessed Chinese coaches "strike teenage players" and the lack of education provided to the young participants.

Mark Tatum, the NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer, told ESPN that the league is "reevaluating" and "considering other opportunities" for the program.

One former coach told ESPN 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.'"

According to ESPN, NBA officials asked current and former employees not to speak to the sports network about the exposé, with one email from a public relations official reading, "Please don't mention that you have been advised by the NBA not to respond."

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"You can't have it both ways," one former employee told ESPN. "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."

Over the past year, the NBA's intense relationship with China has been scrutinized after the league's players and coaches have largely refrained from criticizing the country's human rights violations and expressing support for Hong Kong.

Earlier this month, criticism of the NBA's ties to China was renewed after it was discovered that customers were prohibited from ordering custom gear that read "Free Hong Kong" on its online store.

The store's operator, Fanatics, suggested the phrase was "inadvertently prohibited" and the ban was lifted. Days later though, the NBA pulled all custom gear from its online store.

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ESPN's prominent NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski also raised eyebrows when he sent Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., a profane response to the lawmaker's criticism of the league's decision of “pre-approved, social justice slogans” while “censoring support” for law enforcement and criticism of the Chinese Communist Party.

Wojnarowski issued an apology and was temporarily suspended by the network.

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