NBA says it has pulled out of Xinjiang facility

Adam Silver, commissioner of the National Basketball Association. (Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The NBA has terminated its relationship with a Chinese basketball academy in the controversial region of Xinjiang.

Replying to a letter sent by US Senator Marsha Blackburn to the NBA commissioner Adam Silver, questioning the NBA’s relationship with China, the league’s chief operating officer Mark Tatum said the league had terminated its relationship with its Xinjiang basketball academy over a year ago.

The US Senator’s enquiry comes as friction ramps up between the US and China over a number of issues including trade, intellectual property, human rights and more recently the introduction of a new national security law in Hong Kong.

According to reports by media and human rights groups, more than one million ethnic Uighur people and other minorities, mostly Muslim Turkic peoples, have been placed into internment camps in Xinjiang. The region has been a source of unrest and separatist activity, including terrorist attacks, and China has been making efforts to pacify it. The Chinese government claims that these efforts have not resulted in the mistreatment of its people.

The NBA’s relationship with China is worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year. The league ran into major trouble in the country last year when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted a message in support of anti-government protests in Hong Kong. The incident led to Chinese media platforms including CCTV and internet group Tencent dropping NBA coverage. CCTV has not resumed NBA coverage, although Tencent has. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the row would cost the league hundreds of millions of dollars.

In a similar move, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV this week downgraded its coverage of English Premier League football matches to its less popular CCTV5 Plus sports channel, following an increase in diplomatic tensions between China and the UK.