A US Senator has accused the likes of Nike, Adidas and Apple of profiting from Uighur slave labour in China as he introduces a new bill to hold companies who use it to account.
Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican, announced his Slave-Free Business Certification Act on Monday (US time), which would force companies to disclose information about their supply chains and undergo independent audits.
"At least 80 global companies have been tied to forced Uighur labour in China, from sportswear companies like Nike, Adidas, and Puma to tech giants like Lenovo and Samsung," he wrote in a press release announcing the bill.
"These issues extend beyond China. For example, Starbucks and Nespresso rely on underpaid Brazilian labourers who are denied basic necessities like food and water."
According to a study by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) earlier this year, 83 multinational companies are linked to forced labour by Uighurs - including BMW, Gap, Huawei, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen.
Hawley said the NBA's apparel, which is Nike-branded, is made using forced labour of Uighurs in concentration camps in Xinjiang.
These camps, called 'vocational training centres' by Chinese authorities, are alleged to be the sites of numerous human rights abuses, including widespread brainwashing and forced sterilisation.
China previously disputed the training centres existed, but later admitted they did and were being used to deter would-be terrorists amid mounting evidence.
Speaking to Fox News, Hawley specifically called out the NBA and basketball icon LeBron James, who signed a lifetime endorsement deal with Nike in 2015 which Forbes reports will earn him over $1 billion by the time he's 64.
"I would challenge the NBA, [its Commissioner] Adam Silver, and all the endorsers of Nike products like LeBron to take a pledge that they will be slave-free, that they will not use in their product lines slave labour," he said.
Hawley called on lawmakers to back the Slave-Free Business Certification Act to protect the likes of Uighurs by "[creating] penalties for firms that fail basic minimum standards for human rights", among other measures.
"Executives build woke, progressive brands for American consumers, but happily outsource labor to Chinese concentration camps, all just to save a few bucks," he said.
"Corporate America and the celebrities that hawk their products have been playing this game for a long time - talk up corporate social responsibility and social justice at home while making millions of dollars off the slave labour that assembles their products."
After the ASPI report was released in March, Nike told The Washington Post it would be reevaluating the use of Uighurs in Chinese factories.