The NBA is facing several allegations of child abuse at its academies in China, according to Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada of ESPN. The allegations come from employees and coaches at three academies in China, including one in Xinjiang that has since been closed. One coach described the entire enterprise to ESPN as "a sweat camp for athletes." At least two coaches reportedly left jobs at the academies over the treatment of its athletes.
The allegations come from a number of fronts. The NBA has received at least three reports of physical violence against players, including one incident in which 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 suffering from heat exhaustion. Bruce Palmer, formerly the technical director of a private basketball school that had a sponsorship agreement with the league which allowed it to call itself an "NBA training center," said that he routinely had to tell coaches in China not to physically harm athletes.
"You can't do that to your kid, this is an NBA training center," he once told a coach. "If you really feel like hitting a 14-year-old boy, and you think it's going to help him or make you feel better, take him off campus, but not here, because the NBA does not allow this."
The other primary allegation is based on the academic environment that the academies are supposed to offer. One coach left before the end of his contract due to the lack of schooling players were receiving. "I couldn't continue to show up every day, looking at these kids and knowing they would end up being taxi drivers," he said, according to Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada.
NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum said in response that the league is reevaluating its academy programs. However, he also pushed the responsibility onto the coaches at the academy itself. "We weren't responsible for the local coaches, we didn't have the authority," Tatum said. "We don't have oversight of the local coaches, of the academic programs or the living conditions. It's fair to say we were less involved than we wanted to be."
The NBA is wildly popular in China, but the league's relationship with the country has been strained since Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted "Free Hong Kong" in October. The league is reportedly losing hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue due to Morey's tweet. These allegations certainly won't help matters as the league tries to repair the bridges that have been burned over the past year.