Cotton row heats up as US NBA players asked to end commercial ties with Chinese brands

The US congressional commission called on NBA players to end endorsements of Chinese sportswear firms using cotton grown in Xinjiang such as ANTA Sports, Li-Ning and Peak Sport. 

The commission believed that commercial relationships with these companies create "reputational risks" for NBA and the players, particularly after the US government had determined China was committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and barred cotton imports from the region. The letter said, "In light of this, we urge the NBPA to work with its members to raise awareness about the ongoing genocide taking place in Xinjiang and the role of forced labor in the production of products made by brands that NBPA members have endorsed. We hope that the result of such efforts would be that the players would leverage their contracts with Anta, Li-Ning, and Peak to push these companies to end their use of Xinjiang cotton. Short of that outcome, we encourage players to end their endorsement deals with these companies."

It added that NBA players have had a strong track record of using their large public platform to speak out against injustice and "serve as unofficial ambassadors admired and emulated around the world, and we hope that their decisions on endorsements will reflect the NBPA’s values."

Meanwhile, the fashion brands of H&M, Nike and Zara have been accused by the Chinese government of selling substandard children's clothes that posed potential health hazards amid the ongoing cotton row.  China's general administration of customs listed 81 imported children's clothing products involving garments, toys, toothbrushes, shoes and baby bottles during the agency's annual examinations in a warning notice published on its website on Tuesday, saying that the products were flagged for quality and safety risks. 

According to the South China Morning Post, China's customs also found similar problematic clothing items from GAP and Uniqlo. It was said that the non-compliant products have all been confiscated, destroyed or returned to distributors.

Chinese shoppers are boycotting companies that are refusing to use cotton grown in Xinjiang province and the latest accusation is the latest blow from China to global brands. Due to pressure from various countries, a number of brands pledged not to use cotton from the Xinjiang province, citing accusations of human rights violations of the Uyghurs in the region, including being forced to work in poor conditions for little or no pay with many of them picking cotton.

Chinese celebrities terminated the sponsorship with H&M and major eCommerce sites removed products from the Swedish brand. It also closed one of its flagship stores in Shanghai last month after a decade of business. Meanwhile, Zara would shut down the stores of three of its subsidiaries in China as well.

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