Retired NBA player Dwyane Wade is chief among them, striking a deal with Chinese sportswear company Li-Ning. The brand faced criticism for its endorsement of how the central government in Beijing handles the Uyghur minority in the western Xinjiang autonomous region. The U.S. described Beijing's campaign against the Muslim minority as a "genocide."
Wade signed a decade-long contract to endorse Li-Ning in 2012, which guaranteed him $10 million yearly. Li-Ning produced the Way of Wade sub-brand as part of the contract terms. He then converted this agreement to a lifetime deal in 2018, before his last NBA season.
A three-time champion with the Miami Heat, Wade chose to stay silent over China's human rights concerns.
However, Wade was vocal when it came to the protests over the death of George Floyd instigated by the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. The official Twitter account for Way of Wade tweeted back in June 2020: "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." (Related: NBA exposed as a communist China propaganda machine that implicitly supports organ harvesting, slavery and the torture of political prisoners… it's time to BOYCOTT THE NBA.)
According to ESPN, at least 17 currently active NBA players have inked deals with with one of four major Chinese sportswear firms with purported links to Uyghur forced labor. Spencer Dinwiddie of the Washington Wizards is the latest player to do so, signing a multi-year shoe deal with 361 Degrees in January 2022.
Even though the U.S. and its allies imposed sanctions on China in March 2021 over Xinjiang cotton, the four Chinese sportswear brands – Li-Ning, 361 Degrees, Anta and Peak – reiterated their support for the region's product. The western Xinjiang region supplies about 20 percent of the world's cotton.
At least one brand benefited from endorsing cotton purportedly linked to forced labor, with Li-Ning seeing a surge in its shares following support from nationalist fans.
But according to NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom, his fellow players often choose to stay silent on China's human rights issues. He explained that other players were "too scared to say anything" because they might lose a lucrative source of income.
"They know what's going on, they know all the abuses done by [the Chinese Communist Party.] But just because they had these big endorsement deals or they have a lot of jersey sales and shoe sales in China, they are telling me they have to remain silent. [Nevertheless,] they are supportive of me and [are] praying for me," Freedom said in late January 2022.
Freedom, who hails from Turkey, is the only player in the league speaking out against the CCP's oppression of Tibet, Xinjiang and the Falun Gong movement. Following a trade with the Boston Celtics, he was let go by the Houston Rockets – effectively leaving him without a team. He believes that his stance against Beijing may have cost him his basketball career.
"To be honest, it is a lonely road. I'm talking about it in a sports world. You can talk about all the social justice [and] all the injustices happening all around the world. But when it comes to China, you cannot speak up. If you do, then you'd have to face the consequences," he said during a Feb. 17 event held at Capitol Hill.
Despite being effectively ostracized for standing up against human rights abuses, Freedom said that he does not regret doing so. "If I didn't speak up about all these issues that are happening over there, I wouldn't be able to go to sleep," he said.
Watch Enes Kanter Freedom criticize Chinese President Xi Jinping and Ezra Levant discuss the ties between the NBA and China.
This video is from the SecureLife channel on Brighteon.com.
CommunistChina.news has more news related to the forced labor in China.