U.S. coaches complain of athlete abuse at NBA's China camps: ESPN

BEIJING (Reuters) - American coaches at the National Basketball Association’s training academies in China have complained of abuse of young players by local staff and harassment in the Xinjiang region, ESPN has reported citing unnamed sources.

FILE PHOTO: An NBA logo is seen on a chair at an NBA exhibition in Beijing, China October 8, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee

The report quoted NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum, who oversees the league’s international operations, as saying the league received “a handful” of complaints about mistreatment of young players and immediately informed Chinese authorities. He said the league wasn’t aware any of its employees had been detained or harassed in Xinjiang.

But he said the NBA is “re-evaluating” and “considering other opportunities” for the academy programme, which operates out of sports facilities run by the Chinese government.

The NBA did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. China’s foreign ministry spokesman told a daily news briefing he did not believe the matters raised in the ESPN report were diplomatic issues.

The General Administration of Sport of China, the country’s top sports body, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ESPN report cited comments from several unnamed American coaches who worked at one of the NBA’s facilities in China recounting Chinese coaches hitting young players. The youngsters were also not provided proper schooling, the report said.

One coach told ESPN that he was stopped three times by police within a span of 10 months while working at one of the NBA’s camps in Xinjiang and one occasion detained for some hours. The Xinjiang academy has now been closed.

China has been accused of human rights violations in Xinjiang, including forced labour and holding at least a million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in detention centres. China has denied such accusations.

The ESPN report comes after a sharp deterioration in the U.S. league’s standing in China in October stemming from a tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey supporting the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Beijing’s state television pulled NBA games off its channels, and it’s not clear whether the games will be aired again.

The NBA resumes its regular season play on Thursday.

Reporting by Beijing newsroom; writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan