Sen. Marsha Blackburn Demands Answers from NBA on Abusive Chinese Training Camps

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., speaks to supporters after she was declared the winner over former Gov. Phil Bredesen in their race for the U.S. Senate Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Franklin, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)


On Thursday, U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R, TN) slammed the NBA for seeking to reopen its Chinese training camps despite knowing of major human rights abuses at those facilities.

Blackburn was shocked by a recent ESPN report that found the league had continued its association with the abusive training camps even after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver claimed he was ending the league’s association with them.

“A bombshell @espn report alleges the @NBA was still looking to reopen their training camp in the Xinjiang region, despite the league telling me they closed it. I’m calling on Commissioner Adam Silver to clear the air,” Blackburn tweeted on Thursday.

The sen. also added a video update about her efforts to call the NBA on the carpet over the allegations of child abuse at the camps.

Blackburn also noted that she and Sen. Marco Rubio (R, FL) sent another letter to the NBA demanding that the league denounce the Chinese abusers.

The report from ESPN alleges not only that the NBA continued looking to open its Chinese training camps, but also that the abuses were far worse than previously reported.

The full text of the letter follows:

Dear Commissioner Silver,

We are deeply concerned by reports regarding abuse in an NBA youth-development program in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), one of the most tightly controlled regions in China. Recent investigations suggest that your organization has been aware of Chinese state-sanctioned abuse of children in its Xinjiang basketball training camps, but did not take action.

The Chinese Government and Communist Party are committing some of the worst human rights violations of our time. In a July 21 letter, Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum asserted that, “The NBA has had no involvement with the Xinjiang basketball academy for more than a year, and the relationship has been terminated.” However, on July 29, 2020, a report published by ESPN revealed that the NBA’s Xinjiang training center was fully operational as of spring 2019. The ESPN report directly contradicts assertions in the NBA’s July 21 correspondence with Congressional offices and quotes two sources characterizing the league’s statement as “completely inaccurate.” A New York Times article later also reported that the center was still operating as of June 2019.

Therefore, it is our understanding that the NBA has not been forthcoming with members of the Senate regarding questions surrounding the NBA’s relationship with the Xinjiang basketball academy. If true, this is unacceptable. We ask that you identify the specific date on which you severed the relationship with the Xinjiang basketball academy and publish documentation to substantiate that date.


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