A goodwill basketball game between the Georgetown University Hoyas and a Chinese team, the Bayi Rockets, ended in a fierce, chair-and-water-bottle tossing brawl, on Thursday night. The game had been timed to coincide with Vice President Joe Biden’s state visit; Biden had watched the Hoyas play an earlier (and uneventful) game with the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons. The Hoyas are at the start of a 10-day trip that the State Department has been billing as an “example of sports diplomacy that strengthens ties between the two countries’ peoples,” says the New York Times. The Bayi rockets are China’s most popular team.
Given the recent tensions over economic and other issues between China and the US, one can’t help seeing the on-court fight as a sign of how the two countries are really feeling about each other, for all the public statements of politicians: Just today, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao sounded a “confident note” about the US economy.
The Los Angeles Times gives this description of the Hoyas-Bayi Rockets fight:
Early in the game, the atmosphere turned tense when Bayi forward Xu Zhonghao yelled at [Georgetown coach John Thompson III] in English, “How can you let your players play like that?” Then, after Georgetown guard Jason Clark objected to a hard foul by another Bayi player, Hu Ke, the benches emptied and fights erupted across the court. Fans jumped into the action.
The video captured an unidentified Chinese man in a white polo shirt and khaki shorts stomping a Georgetown player on the floor. Gene Wang of the Washington Post, one of the few foreign reporters in attendance, wrote that one fan grabbed a stanchion, while an unidentified player pushed Georgetown’s Aaron Bowen through a partition, then repeatedly punched him while sitting on his chest.
The Georgetown coach pulled his players off the court, ending the game with 9 minutes 32 seconds left and the score tied, 64-64.
At least in the videos, there was no evidence that Chinese officials tried to restrain their players, several of whom were captured on the footage wielding chairs in midthrow.
An American expatriate who lives in Beijing, Sarah Burton, said that Chinese spectators threw trash and whatever they could find and that security “wearing ill-fitting uniforms, came in late and pretended to help, but stood in the doorway and did nothing.”
Thompson issued a statement after the game:
“Tonight, two great teams played a very competitive game that unfortunately ended after heated exchanges with both teams. We sincerely regret that this situation occurred. We remain grateful for the opportunity our student-athletes are having to engage in a sport they love here in China, while strengthening their understanding of a nation we respect and admire at Georgetown University.’’
Thompson’s statement that the game “strengthen[ed] their understanding of a nation” might say more than meets the eye.
Photo of Georgetown playing Tulane by Tulane Public Relations
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may
not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.