China academy abuse claims 'disturbing,' says NBA

Claims of physical abuse at NBA basketball academies in China are "disturbing," a senior official said, while adding that none of the coaches provided by the league were accused of wrongdoing.

Deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said the NBA was reassessing its program in China and that the league's role was limited to providing just 3 coaches at each Chinese-run academy.

An ESPN report released this week detailed physical abuse and a lack of schooling at the academies in Shandong, Zhejiang and Xinjiang – the western region where China is accused of holding one million people in internment camps. NBA cut its ties with the Xinjiang academy last year.

"The allegations in the ESPN article are disturbing," Tatum said, in a statement sent to AFP. 

"We ended our involvement with the basketball academy in Xinjiang in June 2019 and have been reevaluating the NBA Academy program in China."

The ESPN report described widespread physical punishment for young players, a lack of formal education, cramped living conditions, 2 or 3 training sessions a day and few extracurricular activities.

It said the academy project was "fundamentally flawed" because the NBA coaches are placed under the authority of Chinese officials and do not have access to the country's elite players.

Tatum said the NBA launched the "elite player development initiative in 2016 by working to support 3 existing basketball development centers in China operated by local sports authorities.  

"Our role was limited to providing 3 coaches at each academy, none of whom have been alleged to have engaged in any wrongdoing."

One expert quoted in the report, a British-based academic who grew up in China, said physical discipline was common among Chinese coaches, pointing to cultural differences with the West. – Rappler.com