Democratic and Republican members of Congress are calling on NBA players to end their association with Chinese companies that use materials made by slave labor in their supply chain.
“Americans can’t and shouldn’t conduct business with companies and players that profit through human slavery. And that includes NBA players — they can’t sign endorsement deals and benefit off slave labor,” Rep. Scott Perry, R-Penn., told Politico.
Perry’s comments come as The Congressional-Executive Commission on China is looking into endorsement deals between NBA players and Chinese companies that utilize cotton grown with suspected slave labor.
Companies Anta, Li-Ning, and Peak use Xinjiang cotton in their products. At least 13 current NBA stars including the Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler and former star Dwayne Wade have deals with these companies.
“If they didn’t know [their corporate sponsor] sourced slave labor cotton from Xinjiang, that’s one thing. But if they do know … they are complicit with slavery,” Perry said.
The U.S. has banned imports of Xinjiang cotton.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., co-chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, recently sent a letter to the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) calling on players to end endorsement deals with companies utilizing slave labor.
“We believe that commercial relationships with companies that source cotton in Xinjiang create reputational risks for NBA players and the NBA itself,” the letter states. “The U.S. State Department has determined that the Chinese government is committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, including the mass internment of over a million primarily Muslim ethnic minorities and the systematic use of forced labor to make goods for global export. The NBA and NBA players should not even implicitly be endorsing such horrific human rights abuses.”
In light of the evidence of slave labor, they wrote,
“…we urge the NBPA to work with its members to raise awareness about the ongoing genocide taking place in Xinjiang and the role of forced labor in the production of products made by brands that NBPA members have endorsed. We hope that the result of such efforts would be that the players would leverage their contracts with Anta, Li-Ning, and Peak to push these companies to end their use of Xinjiang cotton. Short of that outcome, we encourage players to end their endorsement deals with these companies.”
It is certainly possible these players are unaware of the connections between these companies and slave-produced cotton from Xinjiang, or perhaps they believe that slave labor was not used to produce the cotton.
Yet evidence, including first-person witness testimony, increasingly shows that China is utilizing slave labor to produce cotton as part of its oppression and genocide of ethnic minorities through concentration camps, executions, torture, forced abortion and sterilization, and organ harvesting.
As this issue gains more attention, it becomes harder to plead ignorance on the matter. Former NBA player Royce White recently called out China’s abuse of the Uyghurs in an interview.
The NBA is very concerned about social justice but has been conspicuously quiet regarding China’s various human rights abuses. Ending the endorsement deals and taking a stance on this issue would go a long way towards restoring the league’s credibility rather than appearing to be hypocritical prima donnas who preach about America’s shortcomings while ignoring and profiting off of China’s current and ongoing sins against humanity.