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NBA Stars Silent on Endorsement Deals With Chinese Companies Celebrating Forced Labor Abuses by Guy Benson

Major League Baseball has placed itself in the middle of a political firestorm, siding with progressive activists and President Joe Biden by ‘taking a stand’ against Georgia’s endlessly lied-about elections law.  MLB reportedly didn’t make one peep in opposition to the then-bill as it worked its way through the legislative process, then did not seek any information about the actual contents of the newly-passed law before blindsiding its franchises by yanking the All Star Game and draft out of Atlanta as a punitive retaliatory measure.  It was a knee-jerk response to mollify woke activists, as well as corporate sponsors who also live in fear of said activists.  Public polling has shown mixed views of the move and the law, with lots of ‘not sure’ responses, but Commissioner Rob Manfred has undoubtedly alienated millions of fans: 

The league is also under fire for hypocrisy, having moved to establish market shares in Communist dictatorships — even contracting with an anti-democracy media partner in China.  And challenges like this from former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will swirl around the Biden White House, which is comically and belatedly trying to minimize the president’s extraordinary intervention in support of a boycott of an American state:  

If Biden was willing to use the weight of the presidency to punish Georgia over a law that he’s repeatedly lied about, how could his administration countenance American participation in the upcoming Olympic games hosted by China, whose ruling regime is actively committing genocide and ethic cleansing against minorities (according to the US State Department, under both the current and previous administrations)?  They don’t have a good answer to that question, obviously.  But perhaps no organization is more fraudulent and hypocritical on the subject of democracy and human rights than the National Basketball Association.  The NBA’s biggest star, LeBron James, has boasted about his courage to speak out on such matters, but sought to have a league executive retaliated against for expressing support for democracy activists in Hong Kong.  LeBron dispatched members of his social justice group demonize the Georgia voting law, then celebrated the resulting boycott (which will cost the Atlanta area an estimated $100 million, shifting dollars to a much whiter city in Denver).  Is this supposed champion of human rights and voting rights — or the outspokenly super-woke coach of the Golden State Warriors — going to have anything to say about this issue, pray tell?  Don’t hold your breath:

In China, local brands are prospering from a consumer backlash against Nike, H&M and other foreign brands over their refusal to use Chinese cotton made by forced labor. Chinese brands have publicly embraced the cotton from the Xinjiang region, leading to big sales to patriotic shoppers and praise from the Beijing-controlled media. In the United States, two of those same Chinese brands, Li-Ning and Anta, adorn the feet of National Basketball Association players — and those players are being rewarded handsomely for it. Two players reached endorsement deals with Anta in February. Another signed on this week. Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors already had a shoe deal with Anta that has been widely reported to be valued at up to $80 million…The Chinese companies themselves are unlikely to take a significant hit. The United States banned imports of products made from Xinjiang cotton in January, but neither Li-Ning nor Anta sells large numbers of shoes there. Still, their full-throated support of Xinjiang could have reputational consequences for the American athletes…

After Li-Ning and Anta published positive statements on Xinjiang cotton last week, investors in China sent the share price of both companies soaring…Mr. Thompson, one of the N.B.A.’s biggest stars, is known as “China Klay” to his Chinese fans and once said he wanted to be the Michael Jordan of Anta. His teammate James Wiseman, as well as Alex Caruso of the Los Angeles Lakers, signed with Anta this year, according to the sportswear brand’s social media account. Precious Achiuwa of the Heat announced this week that he was joining Anta. Requests for comment from Mr. Thompson and other N.B.A. players also went unanswered. Outside China, Xinjiang has become synonymous with repression. Reports suggest as many as one million Uyghurs and other largely Muslim ethnic minorities have been held in detention camps. In March, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken accused China of continuing to “commit genocide and crimes against humanity” in the far northwestern region.

‘Requests for comment went unanswered.’ I’ll bet.  There are NBA players making huge sums of money from endorsement deals with Chinese companies that are openly endorsing forced labor practices imposed by the Chinese Communist Party against ethnic and religious minorities.  Why let genocide stand in the way of sweet, sweet Chinese cash?  How will the NBA handle this latest controversy, given their pristinely woke preening here at home?  If past is prologue, with silence.  Relatedly, consider the sad plight of Nike.  Colin Kaepernick’s sneaker giant has disgraced itself repeatedly, bending over backward to placate the regime in Beijing, even lobbying Congress against legislation to crack down on Chinese forced labor abuses.  In spite of these appalling and craven efforts, Chinese consumers are now burning Nike products, cheered on by CCP propaganda outlets, driven by a ‘patriotic zeal’ that outright glorifies grotesque human rights abuses.  Chinese customers are flocking to domestic companies that proudly proclaim that they’ll continue to make apparel out of materials from Xinjiang, where Uighur Muslims are languishing in concentration camps and are subjected to systemic rape, forced sterilization and abortions, and state-mandated brainwashing.  Try as they might, the fake woke panderers at Nike can’t compete with that.  Meanwhile, this is an illustration of why the NBA would very much like to avoid any and all China-related questions:

The N.B.A. has powerful reasons to keep quiet on China. When Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Rockets at the time, voiced his support for the Hong Kong protests on Twitter in 2019, Li-Ning and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Credit Card Center paused their partnerships with the team. The Chinese Basketball Association, whose president is the former Rockets player Yao Ming, also suspended its cooperation with the Rockets…Mr. Morey deleted the message. Adam Silver, the N.B.A. commissioner, later said the Chinese government had asked the league to fire Mr. Morey, a claim that the Chinese Foreign Ministry quickly denied. But the incident left a scar on the N.B.A.’s reputation for supporting free speech and severely limited its access to the Chinese market…In a radio interview this week, Mr. Silver said that CCTV had stopped airing N.B.A. games again, but that fans could stream them through Tencent, the Chinese internet conglomerate. He said the N.B.A.’s partnership with China was “complicated,” but that “doesn’t mean we don’t speak up about what we see are, you know, things in China that are inconsistent with our values.” A spokesman for the league declined to comment for this article.

We’ll speak up against things that are “inconsistent with our values,” Silver insists. Okay, so thoughts on this “complicated” issue involving forced labor and the horrific abuse and subjugation of Muslims in China? “A spokesman for the league declined to comment for this article.” Of course.



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