NBA players, led by Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, announced that they would boycott the playoffs as a sign of solidarity with Black Lives Matter and the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, only to reverse course a day later. Other sports leagues, like the WNBA, MLB and the MLS followed suit. The decision to boycott reeks of hypocrisy, as the NBA continues to try and placate China, ignoring the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) genocide against the Uyghur people.

It started on Wednesday when the Milwaukee Bucks staged a walkout before game 5 of the playoff series. NBA players, most notably James, wanted the rest of the league to follow suit and end the entire season.

In an official statement, the Bucks said, “The past four months have shed a light on the ongoing racial injustices facing our African American communities. Citizens around the country have used their voices and platforms to speak out against these wrongdoings.”

“We are calling for justice for Jacob Blake and demand the officers be held accountable. For this to occur, it is imperative for the Wisconsin State Legislature to reconvene after months of inaction and take up meaningful measures to address issues of police accountability, brutality and criminal justice reform. We encourage all citizens to educate themselves, take peaceful and responsible action, and remember to vote on Nov. 3.”

James tweeted, “Change doesn’t happen with just talk!! It happens with action and needs to happen NOW! For my @IPROMISESChool kids, kids and communities across the country, it’s on the U.S. to make a difference. Together. That’s why your vote is @morethanavote.”

Yet, the NBA has remained utterly silent in the face of China’s suppression and genocide against the Uyghur people in the northwest Xinjiang region.

While this connection might seem rather odd, interest in basketball has exploded in China over the last couple of years. The NBA makes millions, if not billions, through merchandise sales and when games were aired on state-run television, though that ceased last year after the Houston Rocket’s general manager stated support for Hong Kong protestors on Twitter.

The league has even created three youth-development camps to scout talent in the country, but an ESPN investigation uncovered abusive practices used on the students. Two coaches left because of how the children were treated.

Most appallingly, the NBA has remained silent, and perhaps even profited, off the genocide and cultural suppression of the Uyghur people.

For the past several years, the CCP has been expanding its police state in Xinjiang region of China to suppress the Uyghur, who are an ethnic minority that practice Islam. Those detained are put into “reeducation camps,” which are more like prisons or concentration camps, where men and women are tortured and abused, mentally and physically. The children of those detained are often put into orphanages, even if they have relatives they can live with, and brainwashed with CCP propaganda designed to destroy their cultural heritage. This is being done under the auspices of fighting what China calls its “war on terror.”

But in reality, much of the world considers it a genocide.

In addition to imprisoning and “reeducating” the Uyghur people, many of whom are sent to work as forced labor in various factories after “graduating.” A report from Australia indicates that some work at factories that supply inventory for Nike.

So, some of the apparel that NBA players are wearing, like jerseys and shoes now emblazoned with BLM, could have been made with forced labor. Apparently, the altruism and outrage of the league ends at the nation’s shores.

In an interview with ESPN in 2008 about the genocide in Darfur, James said, “At the end of the day we’re talking about human rights. And people should understand that human rights and people’s lives are in jeopardy. We’re not talking about contracts here. We’re not talking about money. We’re talking about people’s lives being lost and that means a lot more to me than some money or a contract.”

Apparently, when it comes to China and the millions that can be made there, that’s not really the case.

There is nothing wrong with expressing concern over what’s happening in the United States, but it becomes hypocritical when the NBA and its players fail to do the same in China. Couldn’t these same players not only call for justice for Jacob Blake, but for the Uyghur people as well?

They deserve the same, if not more, outrage from the players and teams that claim that they’re fighting for racial justice.  

Photo from Michael Tipton

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