Congress Has a Big Ask for Heat’s Wade, Butler & Others Over China Controversy

Dwyane Wade Li Ning

Getty Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade attends a Li Ning promotional event in Beijing, China in 2013.

The NBA‘s longstanding business relationships in China amid human rights violations occurring in the country have been a hot topic in recent years. And the United States Congress wants some of the league’s stars, including Miami Heat legend Dwyane Wade and current players Jimmy Butler and Udonis Haslem to help sever some of those ties, per ESPN.

Specifically, some members of Congress are calling upon Wade and others to end their own pacts with Chinese apparel and shoewear companies.

“If [Wade] and others said, ‘No, I’m not going to do this,’ others will follow. This is the kind of pressure that China understands,” Rep. James McGovern (D-Massachusetts) told ESPN.

“The more there is affiliation with American athletes, American companies and corporations, the more they can get cover for the terrible things that are going on.”

The Situation in China

Dwyane Wade on why he left Jordan Brand and built his own with Chinese company | ESPNMiami Heat guard Dwyane Wade sits down with Nick DePaula to discuss him leaving Jordan Brand and joining Chinese company Li-Ning. ✔ Subscribe to ESPN on YouTube: ✔ Watch Latest Episodes on WatchESPN: ✔ Watch ESPN on YouTube TV: Get more ESPN on YouTube: ► First Take: ► SC6 with Michael…2018-03-07T03:11:59Z

Wade, Butler and Haslem all have lucrative endorsement deals with the Beijing-based Li-Ning. As relayed by ESPN, the company is one — along with the likes of Anta, Peak and 361 degrees — that has been accused of “abetting human rights abuses” by government officials.

It was noted that roughly one in five cotton garments sold around the world contains material from Xinjiang, where more than a million Uyghurs — a group of ethnic Muslims that populate the region — and other minorities are held in detention camps. Those groups have also been subjected to torture, involuntary sterilization, mass surveillance, forced labor and more.

As relayed by Reuters, a 2020 report from the Center for Global Policy indicated that more than half a million of those people were being forced to pick cotton.

The plight of the Uyghur people was put in the spotlight again last week when Warriors minority owner Chamath Palihapitiya claimed that the situation, which the US State Department has classified as genocide, is one that the average American doesn’t really care about.

It’s an attitude that lawmakers are desperately seeking to change.

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The Big Request

Per ESPN, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China sent a letter to the NBPA asking the group to encourage players with Chinese endorsement deals to end those agreements. NBPA director Michele Roberts later responded with a condemnation of “genocide or crimes against humanity.”

However, several agents whose clients have Chinese shoe deals told ESPN that the union had not alerted them to the Congressional request. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the union insisted that the request had indeed been passed along.

For his part, Wade signed a 10-year, $75 million deal with Li-Ning in 2012. Ahead of his final NBA season in 2018, that agreement was converted into a lifetime contract. Per ESPN, at least 17 current players have shoe/apparel deals with Chinese firms.


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