Dallas Mavericks star guard Kyrie Irving reportedly is now an executive at Chinese apparel giant ANTA.
Irving will serve as ANTA Basketball’s chief creative officer, where he will look to collaborate with other players, brands and influential figures to be a part of his signature line with the company.
“ANTA and Kyrie Irving are embarking on an exciting new business collaboration,” the company said in a press release. “As a new member of the ANTA family, Kyrie Irving will not only actively serve as ANTA Basketball’s Chief Creative Officer, but he will also seek to recruit basketball players, independent brands, influential figures in pop culture, artists, musicians, pioneers in environmentalism, trailblazers in humanitarianism and designers to also collaborate with him to create additional product lines under Kyrie’s signature line.”
ANTA has been linked to forced labor by Uyghur Muslims, which has led to a congressional letter being sent to NBA commissioner Adam Silver from New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith and Sen. Jeffrey Merkley that asked the NBA to “prohibit the use or sale of NBA-branded gear and garments, or NBA game-day shoes made with forced labor or made by sportswear companies that endorse the use of materials from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).”
ANTA isn’t the only company that is mentioned in the congressional letter to Silver.
“We are also concerned that Chinese sportswear companies ANTA, Li-Ning, and Peak — companies with contracts with a growing number of NBA players — publicly embrace the use of supply chains linked to forced labor that helps fund the genocide committed in the XUAR,” Smith and Merkley wrote.
A second letter, addressed to New Orleans Pelicans guard C.J. McCollum, who is the president of the National Basketball Players Association, specifically mentions Irving’s deal with ANTA, saying that the company is “a brand linked to the forced labor of Uyghur, Kazakh, and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in the XUAR.”
According to Rolling Stone‘s Tim Dickinson, attempts to reach out to Irving or ANTA were unsuccessful, but a representative for Irving released a statement on behalf of the Mavericks guard.
“First and foremost, both Kyrie Irving and ANTA stand firmly against human rights violations,” the statement read. “The allegations surrounding ANTA’s involvement in such practices are gravely concerning. However, ANTA has consistently clarified that their suppliers are prohibited from using forced or involuntary labor in any part of their manufacturing processes.
“We urge the media and the public to approach this matter with fairness and nuance, refraining from perpetuating narratives that are biased or unfounded. Kyrie’s association with ANTA seeks to enhance basketball’s creative side and uplift emerging talent. We remain committed to ethical business practices and are always open to informed, constructive dialogue.”
Irving was able to sign a deal with ANTA after his shoe deal with Nike ended late last year. That came as a result of Irving promoting – and failing to denounce – the film “Hebrews to Negroes” which promotes antisemitic views.
As a result, Irving was suspended by the Brooklyn Nets – his team at the time – because of the incident. It also led to the termination of his deal with Nike.
“Kyrie stepped over the line,” Nike co-founder Phil Knight said at the time. “It’s kind of that simple. He made some statements that we just can’t abide by, and that’s why we ended the relationship. And I was fine with that.”
Prior to that, Irving had played in just 29 games in the 2021-22 season because he had refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19. At the time, a law in New York did not allow him to play in home games for the Nets unless he was vaccinated. Eventually, the vaccine mandate was lifted, and Irving returned to playing home games for the team.
There are some scary numbers when it comes to the oppression of the Uyghurs in China. The Uyghurs are a Turkic minority group that lives in the western Xinjiang province of China.
According to Dickinson, upward of 1 million Uyghurs have been forced into prison camps.
“The U.S. government recognizes what’s happening to the Uyghurs as genocide, and part of the genocide is the use of forced labor,” Arlsan Hidayat, program director at Campaign for Uyghurs, a human rights group, told Rolling Stone.
Irving isn’t the only NBA player that has a deal with ANTA. Golden State Warriors players Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney both have deals with the company, as does former All-Star Gordon Hayward.
It’s possible that Irving could bring on more players to ANTA, as that is part of his new role with the company.
“My CCO role at ANTA is key,” Irving explained during a Mavericks press availability. “I can sign other artists; I can sign other athletes. I can basically sign my peers and also negotiate favorable terms that I know the industry is not offering anybody else.”
A free agent this past offseason, Irving re-signed with the Mavericks. He was traded to the franchise during the 2022-23 campaign, but Dallas failed to make the playoffs.
It’s unclear if Irving will face any pushback from the NBA for his new deal with ANTA. For now, he and the Mavericks will focus on preparing for the 2023-24 season.