NBA reveals it has terminated relationship with Chinese basketball academy; senator calls out Silver

Sam Amico

The NBA has terminated a relationship with a basketball academy based in Xinjiang, China, according to a letter from the league to Tennessee Republican senator Marsha Blackburn obtained by Sports Illustrated.

The letter was written in response to questions Blackburn sent to NBA commissioner Adam Silver regarding the league's relationship with China. Blackburn's letter asked three questions, with one focused on the unrest in Xinjiang, considered "one of the world’s worst humanitarian zones," as SI's Ross Dellenger wrote.

One of the three training centers opening in China in 2016 was located in Xinjiang.

“The NBA has had no involvement with the Xinjiang basketball academy for more than a year, and the relationship has been terminated,” NBA deputy commuissioner Mark Tatum wrote in response to Blackburn.

Still, the league has come under fire from congressional leaders for ignoring the issues in China while being outspoken on other social matters. Blackburn indicated in statement to SI that she was not not satisfied with Tatum's response.

Tatum closed the letter by telling Blackburn to forward all other questions to him -- and not Silver.

“It is inconceivable and disrespectful for Commissioner Silver to sidestep an issue that requires real leadership,” Blackburn said in the statement to SI. “The reply from Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum lacks the appropriate concern and responsibility that should accompany congressional correspondence. These technical answers do not address the larger questions about whether there is a conflict between their financial decisions and professed values.

“However, I am pleased that the NBA has publicly admitted for the first time that it has ended its involvement with the Xinjiang academy. I will continue my inquiries into questions about the Uyghurs and the NBA’s corporate partnerships at the appropriate organizational leadership levels.”

The league has attempted to downplay its relationship with China, despite it being back in the news after ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski responded to a mass email from U.S. Sen. Josh Howley by saying, "F*** you."

Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, took a screenshot of the email and tweeted it. 

Wojnarowski's response was denounced by the network and he has since been suspended without pay.

The state-run China Central Television ceased broadcasts of NBA games at the start of the season. CCTV did so in response to a tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey that strongly supported Hong Kong protesters.

"In a statement, the league called the tweet 'regrettable,' and its biggest star, LeBron James, described the message as 'misinformed,'" Dellenger wrote. "Lawmakers on Capitol Hill chided the NBA for its response, cowering to a communist government instead of supporting the democratic rights of the Hong Kong people." 

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