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China’s Forced-Labor Backlash Threatens to Put N.B.A. in Unwanted Spotlight

U.S.-China tensions, human rights and business are once again meeting uncomfortably on the basketball court.

In China, local brands are prospering from a consumer backlash against Nike, H&M and other foreign brands over their refusal to use Chinese cotton made by forced labor. Chinese brands have publicly embraced the cotton from the Xinjiang region, leading to big sales to patriotic shoppers and praise from the Beijing-controlled media.

In the United States, two of those same Chinese brands, Li-Ning and Anta, adorn the feet of N.B.A. players — and those players are being rewarded handsomely for it. Two players reached endorsement deals with Anta in February. Another signed on this week. Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors already had a shoe deal with Anta that has been widely reported to be valued at up to $80 million.

Dwyane Wade, the three-time N.B.A. champion and retired Miami Heat player, has a clothing line with Li-Ning that is so successful he has recruited young players for the brand.

online, however.) Still, their full-throated support of Xinjiang could have reputational consequences for the American athletes.

once said he wanted to be the Michael Jordan of Anta. His teammate James Wiseman, as well as Alex Caruso of the Los Angeles Lakers, signed with Anta earlier this year, according to the sportswear brand’s social media account. Precious Achiuwa of the Heat announced this week that he was joining Anta.

Requests for comment from Mr. Thompson and other N.B.A. players also went unanswered.

Outside China, Xinjiang has become synonymous with repression. Reports suggest as many as one million Uyghurs and other largely Muslim ethnic minorities have been held in detention camps. In March, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken accused China of continuing to “commit genocide and crimes against humanity” in the far northwestern region.

voiced his support for the Hong Kong protests on Twitter in 2019, Li-Ning and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Credit Card Center paused their partnerships with the team. The Chinese Basketball Association, whose president is the former Rockets player Yao Ming, also suspended its cooperation with the Rockets.

quickly denied. But the incident left a scar on the N.B.A.’s reputation for supporting free speech and severely limited its access to the Chinese market.

China Central Television, the state-run television network, stopped broadcasting N.B.A. games after Mr. Morey’s message on Twitter. Late last year, it briefly resumed coverage for Games 5 and 6 of the N.B.A. finals. A week later, Mr. Morey stepped down as general manager.

In a radio interview this week, Mr. Silver said that CCTV had stopped airing N.B.A. games again, but that fans could stream them through Tencent, the Chinese internet conglomerate. He said that the N.B.A.’s partnership with China was “complicated,” but that “doesn’t mean we don’t speak up about what we see are, you know, things in China that are inconsistent with our values.”

A spokesman for the league declined to comment for this article.

Money and a large China fan base are at stake for players like Mr. Thompson and the dozens of other American athletes who have been heavily promoted by Anta and Li-Ning. Mr. Thompson has had a partnership with Anta since 2014 that has given him a popular shoe line and sponsored tours in China.

More recent deals between the companies and N.B.A. players could face questions in coming weeks as tensions between the United States and China escalate. Jimmy Butler, a five-time all-star who plays for the Heat, and the Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet signed on with Li-Ning in November. Mr. Wade, the retired Heat player, helped CJ McCollum and D’Angelo Russell, two star guards, secure deals with Li-Ning through his sportswear line.

“My decision 7 years ago to sign with Li-Ning was to show the next generation that it’s not just one way of doing things,” Mr. Wade wrote on Twitter when he announced Mr. Russell’s contract in November 2019. “I had a chance to build a Global platform that gives future athletes a canvas to create and be expressive.”

Sopan Deb contributed reporting from New York, and Cao Li from Hong Kong.

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‘The Start of a Comeback’ in 5 U.S. Cities

As Covid-19 vaccinations have picked up and more businesses reopen across the country, Easter weekend saw a resurgence of tourist activity in some cities, perhaps indicating a turning point for the struggling tourism industry.

Chip Rogers, the president and chief operating officer for the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the trade organization for the hospitality industry, said that before last weekend, recovery had been “very regionalized,” with places like Florida and Texas doing well and “cities that thrive on large meetings and conventions like a Chicago, Orlando, Las Vegas” struggling to recover.

“You’re seeing really good pickup over the weekend dates, which have now extended. Traditionally they’re Friday to Sunday, now it’s Thursday to Monday,” he said, referring to the increase in leisure travel. But the lack of business travel means weekday bookings continue to lag. Still, he added, there’s reason for “cautious optimism.”

But travelers, even those who are fully vaccinated, should practice caution while visiting some states, health experts warn. Case numbers are going up in some popular destinations, like Florida, which saw a spike as revelers flocked there during spring break. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends that people continue to wear masks, social distance and frequently wash their hands, even though some local governments have relaxed or lifted these rules.

Mila Miami, a restaurant in Miami Beach, many have traveled from out of state for extended stays — particularly from places like Los Angeles, New York and Chicago — which he said “has enabled the business to pick up customers that we wouldn’t have.”

This influx proved problematic over spring break, when police officers in riot gear used pepper balls to enforce an emergency curfew and disperse revelers ignoring social distancing and mask regulations.

During the weekend of March 28 to April 3, Miami “saw its highest occupancy level since the start of the pandemic, with most hotels reporting upward of 75 percent occupancy levels,” said Suzie Sponder, a spokeswoman for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. That’s only a 6.6 percent drop from the same weekend in 2019.

Ms. Sponder added that the average room rate for the weekend was $282.29, up 25 percent from 2019. And Mr. Rogers, of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, said that revenue, which is still down across the board, is the best indicator of the industry’s recovery, noting that Miami’s strong numbers are the exception rather than the rule.

In the tourism industry, “you still have a lot of folks that are out of work,” he said, “because it’s those large, city center urban hotels that employ the most people, because they have those extensive food and beverage operations that are not working right now. That’s where most job loss is occurring.”

Circa Resort & Casino. “It’s like trying to book a dinner reservation on New Year’s Eve. It’s not something you do the day before.” Spots at the pools at his establishments, which include two other hotels, are booked a month in advance because of reduced capacity limits and social distancing, which he said shows that there is demand for leisure travel. Hotels and other venues in the city are limited to 50 percent capacity.

Though the weekend of Easter is, historically, the second slowest weekend in the city, this year was different because of March Madness, the annual N.C.A.A. basketball tournaments. “Everything was packed to the restricted capacity level,” he said. “On Saturday, all of our venues were filled by 10 a.m. because of Final Four. I think that was the case throughout all of Las Vegas.”

Mr. Stevens said that since the Super Bowl, in February, there have been indications that the tourism industry in Vegas is recovering, adding that his three hotels have been sold out every weekend since. “I’ve never seen booking at the rate of what we’ve seen in the past three months or so. This is the strongest booking that I’ve ever experienced,” he said.

But there continues to be a dip during weekdays because of the lack of conferences or conventions. “What we’re seeing is enormous pent-up demand for leisure travel that while it’s going to take place throughout the entire summer, does not necessarily mean that business travel will follow suit,” he said.

NewOrleans.com planning a trip in the next three months. Ms. Schulz notes that she is “optimistic about the fourth quarter of 2021 with a convention and festival schedule.”

Though leisure travel over the summer is expected to keep the industry afloat, Mr. Rogers said business travel will need to pick back up in order to restore the industry to 2019 levels.

“While we’re optimistic, what we’re fearful of and concerned about is, what happens post-Labor Day when all of this leisure travel has passed?” he said. Business travel, he said, “is absolutely necessary if we’re going to survive.”

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Has the Era of Overzealous Cleaning Finally Come to an End?

When the coronavirus began to spread in the United States last spring, many experts warned of the danger posed by surfaces. Researchers reported that the virus could survive for days on plastic or stainless steel, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that if someone touched one of these contaminated surfaces — and then touched their eyes, nose or mouth — they could become infected.

Americans responded in kind, wiping down groceries, quarantining mail and clearing drugstore shelves of Clorox wipes. Facebook closed two of its offices for a “deep cleaning.” New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority began disinfecting subway cars every night.

But the era of “hygiene theater” may have come to an unofficial end this week, when the C.D.C. updated its surface cleaning guidelines and noted that the risk of contracting the virus from touching a contaminated surface was less than 1 in 10,000.

“People can be affected with the virus that causes Covid-19 through contact with contaminated surfaces and objects,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the C.D.C., said at a White House briefing on Monday. “However, evidence has demonstrated that the risk by this route of infection of transmission is actually low.”

primarily through the air — in both large and small droplets, which can remain aloft longer — and that scouring door handles and subway seats does little to keep people safe.

who wrote last summer that the risk of surface transmission had been overblown. “This is a virus you get by breathing. It’s not a virus you get by touching.”

The C.D.C. has previously acknowledged that surfaces are not the primary way that the virus spreads. But the agency’s statements this week went further.

“The most important part of this update is that they’re clearly communicating to the public the correct, low risk from surfaces, which is not a message that has been clearly communicated for the past year,” said Joseph Allen, a building safety expert at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Catching the virus from surfaces remains theoretically possible, he noted. But it requires many things to go wrong: a lot of fresh, infectious viral particles to be deposited on a surface, and then for a relatively large quantity of them to be quickly transferred to someone’s hand and then to their face. “Presence on a surface does not equal risk,” Dr. Allen said.

In most cases, cleaning with simple soap and water — in addition to hand-washing and mask-wearing — is enough to keep the odds of surface transmission low, the C.D.C.’s updated cleaning guidelines say. In most everyday scenarios and environments, people do not need to use chemical disinfectants, the agency notes.

“What this does very usefully, I think, is tell us what we don’t need to do,” said Donald Milton, an aerosol scientist at the University of Maryland. “Doing a lot of spraying and misting of chemicals isn’t helpful.”

Still, the guidelines do suggest that if someone who has Covid-19 has been in a particular space within the last day, the area should be both cleaned and disinfected.

“Disinfection is only recommended in indoor settings — schools and homes — where there has been a suspected or confirmed case of Covid-19 within the last 24 hours,” Dr. Walensky said during the White House briefing. “Also, in most cases, fogging, fumigation and wide-area or electrostatic spraying is not recommended as a primary method of disinfection and has several safety risks to consider.”

And the new cleaning guidelines do not apply to health care facilities, which may require more intensive cleaning and disinfection.

Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease epidemiologist at George Mason University, said that she was happy to see the new guidance, which “reflects our evolving data on transmission throughout the pandemic.”

But she noted that it remained important to continue doing some regular cleaning — and maintaining good hand-washing practices — to reduce the risk of contracting not just the coronavirus but any other pathogens that might be lingering on a particular surface.

Dr. Allen said that the school and business officials he has spoken with this week expressed relief over the updated guidelines, which will allow them to pull back on some of their intensive cleaning regimens. “This frees up a lot of organizations to spend that money better,” he said.

Schools, businesses and other institutions that want to keep people safe should shift their attention from surfaces to air quality, he said, and invest in improved ventilation and filtration.

“This should be the end of deep cleaning,” Dr. Allen said, noting that the misplaced focus on surfaces has had real costs. “It has led to closed playgrounds, it has led to taking nets off basketball courts, it has led to quarantining books in the library. It has led to entire missed school days for deep cleaning. It has led to not being able to share a pencil. So that’s all that hygiene theater, and it’s a direct result of not properly classifying surface transmission as low risk.”

Roni Caryn Rabin contributed reporting

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China’s Anger at Foreign Brands Helps Local Rivals

Tim Min once drove BMWs. He considered buying a Tesla.

Instead Mr. Min, the 33-year-old owner of a Beijing cosmetics start-up, bought an electric car made by a Chinese Tesla rival, Nio. He likes Nio’s interiors and voice control features better.

He also considers himself a patriot. “I have a very strong inclination toward Chinese brands and very strong patriotic emotions,” he said. “I used to love Nike, too. Now I don’t see any reason for that. If there’s a good Chinese brand to replace Nike, I’ll be very happy to.”

Western brands like H&M, Nike and Adidas have come under pressure in China for refusing to use cotton produced in the Xinjiang region, where the Chinese government has waged a broad campaign of repression against ethnic minorities. Shoppers vowed to boycott the brands. Celebrities dropped their endorsement deals.

But foreign brands also face increasing pressure from a new breed of Chinese competitors making high-quality products and selling them through savvy marketing to an increasingly patriotic group of young people. There’s a term for it: “guochao,” or Chinese fad.

HeyTea, a $2 billion milk tea start-up with 700 stores, wants to replace Starbucks. Yuanqisenlin, a four-year-old low-sugar drink company valued at $6 billion, wants to become China’s Coca-Cola. Ubras, a five-year-old company, wants to supplant Victoria’s Secret with the most non-Victoria’s Secret of products: unwired, sporty bras that emphasize comfort.

The anger over Xinjiang cotton has given these Chinese brands another chance to win over consumers. As celebrities cut their ties to foreign brands, Li-Ning, a Chinese sportswear giant, announced that Xiao Zhan, a boy band member, would become its new global ambassador. Within 20 minutes, almost everything that Mr. Xiao wore on a Li-Ning advertisement had sold out online. A hashtag about the campaign was viewed more than one billion times.

China is undergoing a consumer brand revolution. Its young generation is more nationalistic and actively looking for brands that can align with that confidently Chinese identity. Entrepreneurs are rushing to build up names and products that resonate. Investors are turning their attention to these start-ups amid dropping returns from technology and media ventures.

When patriotism becomes a selling point, Western brands are put at a competitive disadvantage, especially in a country that increasingly requires global companies to toe the same political lines that Chinese firms must.

a jump in Tesla deliveries. IPhones remain immensely popular. Campaigns against foreign names have come and gone, and local brands that emphasize politics too much risk unwanted attention if the political winds shift quickly.

Still, interest in local brands marks a significant shift. Post-Mao, the country made few consumer products. The first televisions that most families owned in the 1980s were from Japan. Pierre Cardin, the French designer, reintroduced fashion with his first show in Beijing in 1979, bringing color and flair to a nation that during the Cultural Revolution wore blue and gray.

Chinese people born in the 1970s or earlier remember their first sip of Coco-Cola and their first bite of a Big Mac. We watched films from Hollywood, Japan and Hong Kong as much for the wardrobes and makeup as the plot. We rushed to buy Head & Shoulders shampoo because its Chinese name, Haifeisi, means “sea flying hair.”

“We’ve gone through the European and American fad, the Japanese and Korean fad, the American streetwear fad, even the Hong Kong and Taiwan fad,” said Xun Shaohua, who founded a Shanghai sportswear company that competes with Vans and Converse.

Now could be the time for the China fad. Chinese companies are making better products. China’s Generation Z, born between 1995 and 2009, doesn’t have the same attachment to foreign names.

Even People’s Daily, the traditionally staid Communist Party official newspaper, is getting into branding. It started a streetwear collection with Li-Ning in 2019. That same year, it issued a report with Baidu, the Chinese search company, called “Guochao Pride Big Data.” They found that when people in China searched for brands, more than two-thirds were looking for domestic names, up from only about one-third 10 years earlier.

makes up only about 40 percent of China’s economic output, much less than it does in the United States and Europe.

Patriotism aside, entrepreneurs argue that their ventures rest on a solid business foundation. Similar trends happened in Japan and South Korea, both now home to strong brands. Local players better know the abilities of the country’s supply chains and how to use social media.

Mr. Xun’s sports brand has half a million followers on Alibaba’s Taobao marketplace and sells at the same prices as Vans and Converse, or even slightly higher. He said his brand competed by making shoes that fit Chinese feet better and offering colors favored locally, such as mint green and fuchsia. He sells exclusively online and teams up with Chinese and foreign brands and personalities, including Pokemon and Hello Kitty. At 37, he’s the only person in his company who was born before 1990.

The guochao fad has also reinvigorated older Chinese brands, like Li-Ning. For many years, sophisticated urbanites considered the brand, created by a former world champion gymnast of the same name, ugly and cheap. Its signature red-and-yellow color combination, after the Chinese flag, was mockingly called “eggs fried with tomato,” an everyday Chinese dish. Li-Ning was losing money. Its shares were on a losing streak.

Then the company introduced a collection at New York Fashion Week in early 2018. Its edgy look, combined with bold Chinese characters and embroidery, created buzz back home. Its shares have risen nearly ninefold since then. Now Li-Ning’s high-end collections sell at $100 to $150 on average, on a par with those of Adidas.

National Basketball Association and Dolce & Gabbana passed pretty quickly, this bout could linger, many people said.

“In the past, some Western brands didn’t understand or failed to respect the Chinese culture mostly because of lack of understanding,” Mr. Xun said. “This time it’s a political issue. They have violated our political sensitivities.”

Then, like any savvy Chinese entrepreneur who knows which topics are sensitive, he asked, “Could we not talk about politics?”

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Alabama Basketball Superfan Dies

A beloved superfan of the University of Alabama’s men’s basketball team died from complications of Covid-19, his mother said Saturday.

Luke Ratliff rarely missed a game and was known by the Crimson Tide community as “Fluffopotamus.” He died Friday evening, his mother, Pamela Ratliff, said. A senior at the University of Alabama, Mr. Ratliff was set to graduate in August. He was 23.

“He had a personality that was bigger than this world, never met a stranger,” Ms. Ratliff said on Saturday.

Mr. Ratliff traveled to the men’s N.C.A.A. basketball tournament in Indianapolis to cheer on the Crimson Tide until they lost to U.C.L.A. last weekend. He had recently gone through rapid coronavirus testing multiple times, Ms. Ratliff said, and the tests had come back negative.

up to 25 percent of their normal capacity. In response to Mr. Ratliff’s death, the Marion County Public Health Department said in a statement it would be investigating to determine “if anyone in Indianapolis may have been exposed to COVID-19 by any Alabama resident who visited Indianapolis in recent days.”

“We continue to encourage residents and visitors to practice the simple and important habits that keep us all safe: wearing a mask, washing hands, and social distancing,” the department said.

There have been an outpouring of tributes from the Crimson Tide community celebrating Mr. Ratliff.

“We will forever remember our #1 fan,” Alabama Men’s Basketball said on Twitter. “We love you.”

Nate Oats, Alabama’s coach, said Mr. Ratliff’s death “doesn’t seem real.”

“Fluff has been our biggest supporter since day one,” Oats said on Twitter. “Put all he had into our program. Loved sharing this ride with him. You’ll be missed dearly my man! Wish we had one more victory cigar and hug together. Roll Tide Forever.”

The Tuscaloosa News earlier this year.

“College basketball is different because it’s literally right in front of you: You can see it, you can touch it, you can go to it 16 home games a year. It’s tangible, that’s what’s endeared me to it,” Mr. Ratliff told the outlet, discussing his preference for the game over football.

On March 31, Mr. Ratliff chronicled Alabama men’s basketball season on Twitter, posting his own personal highlights from the season.

“I will finish college having attended 44 of the tide’s past 45 conference and postseason games, including 42 in a row,” Mr. Ratliff wrote. “What a freaking ride it’s been.”

Mr. Ratliff is survived by his parents and two brothers.

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DeSantis Bans Agencies, Businesses From Requiring ‘Vaccine Passports’ in Florida

Florida has banned state and local government agencies and businesses from requiring so-called vaccine passports, or documentation proving that someone has been vaccinated against Covid-19.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, issued an executive order on Friday prohibiting businesses from requiring patrons or customers to show vaccine documentation, or risk losing grants or contracts funded by the state. It was not immediately clear how the order applied to state and local government agencies.

Requiring proof of vaccination, the order says, would “reduce individual freedom” and “harm patient privacy,” as well as “create two classes of citizens based on vaccination.”

There has been much discussion about vaccine passports, a way to show proof that someone has been vaccinated against the coronavirus, though the passports raise daunting political, ethical and privilege questions. The Biden administration has made clear that it will neither issue nor require the passports, but Republicans have seized on the issue as an example of government overreach.

executive orders aimed at curbing the virus crisis called for government agencies to “assess the feasibility of linking Covid-19 vaccination to International Certificates of Vaccination or Prophylaxis” and creating electronic versions of them. A wide range of businesses, especially cruise lines and airlines, are eager to have a way for their customers to show proof of vaccination, especially as the number of new virus cases rises across the country.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday that about 101.8 million people — nearly one-third of the total U.S. population — had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. As of Friday, an average of nearly three million shots a day were being administered, according to data reported by the C.D.C.

“It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society,” Mr. DeSantis said at a news conference on Monday.

Some other Republican governors have also come out against the passport concept. Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska issued a statement Wednesday saying that the state would not participate in any vaccine passport program, and Gov. Mike Parson of Missouri told reporters Thursday that he would not require vaccine passports in the state but was also not opposed to private companies adopting them.

The C.D.C. has issued guidance for fully vaccinated people that allows for the resumption of some activities in private settings. And on Friday, the agency said fully vaccinated Americans can travel “at low risk to themselves,” though federal health officials have urged people not to travel at all, unless they absolutely must.

New York, however, the state recently introduced a digital tool to allow people to easily show that they have either tested negative for the coronavirus or have been vaccinated in order to gain entry into some events and venues.

Walmart, last month, joined an international effort to provide standardized digital vaccination credentials to people. The company joins a push already backed by major health centers and tech companies including Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, Cerner, Epic Systems, the Mitre Corporation and the Mayo Clinic.

Some colleges and universities have also begun setting vaccine requirements for the next school year. Cornell University issued a statement on Friday saying that vaccinations would be required for in-person attendance in the fall, and Rutgers University in New Jersey said last week that all students would need to be fully vaccinated to be allowed to return to campus in the fall, baring religious or medical reasons.

Mr. DeSantis’s order is likely to draw legal challenges, raising questions about the impact of two Supreme Court decisions. In Jacobson v. Massachusetts, the high court in 1905 upheld the authority of states to enforce compulsory vaccination laws. That ruling for more than a century has let public schools require proof of vaccinations of its students, with some exceptions for religious objections.

In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who had refused to create a wedding cake for a gay couple on narrow grounds, and other courts have struggled with how to balance state laws barring discrimination against constitutional rights like free speech and the free exercise of religion. It is not clear that Florida businesses could invoke a constitutional right to refuse to comply with the new measure.

Some venues and events in Florida had already made plans to require vaccinations. The Miami Heat basketball team said it would give prime seating to vaccinated fans. The South Beach Wine & Food Festival said it would require proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test to attend. Nova Southeastern University said it would mandate vaccinations for all faculty and staff members as of Aug. 1 to participate in on-campus learning.

It was not immediately clear on Friday what those businesses would do in response to the governor’s order.

Isabella Grullón Paz contributed reporting.

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