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Brawl Breaks Out During U.S., China Basketball Game


It was billed as a China-U.S. Basketball Friendship Match. Friendship? Well, that seemed to disappear. With over nine minutes left in last night's game, things devolved into quite a brawl.

(Soundbite of yelling)

Unidentified Man: It's a friendship game. What are you guys doing?

(Soundbite of scream)

Unidentified Man: It's a friendship game.

GREENE: That's sound from one of many videos out there this morning, of spectators reacting to a chaotic fight that broke out between the Georgetown University men's basketball team and a Chinese professional club.�

The Washington Post's Gene Wang was in Beijing for that game and is now in Shanghai, where there are more games scheduled for Georgetown.

Gene, hello.

Mr. GENE WANG (Washington Post): Hey, hey. How are you?

GREENE: Very well.

What in the world happened on the court last night?

Mr. WANG: Yeah, that's what a lot of people were asking. It was a game marked by a lot of physicality, early, a lot of fouls, early on. And eventually tensions just escalated to the point where the benches cleared.

The one incident that triggered the bench clearing brawl, which was the second one of the game, by the way, was a hard foul on Jason Clark, a senior guard on the Georgetown team. A Chinese player fouled him, pushed him to the ground. You can clearly see that in all the videos that are circulating out there on the Internet. And Jason obviously didn't taken kindly to it, got up and said something to him.

They're pushing and shoving, more pushing and shoving, then the benches emptied. And at that point is when it started getting really scary. There were chairs flying, because there were loose chairs all over the sidelines of the court. Then fans were there. Chinese fans were there. They had chairs. One of the Georgetown players, Henry Sims, had a chair thrown at him, as a matter of fact.

And it got worse, thereafter, even more when Georgetown coach John Thompson III eventually decided to pull his team off the court, which was a great idea, because clearly the game was over. They weren't going to play anymore.

And at that point as they're walking off the court into the locker room fans from above started to throw full water bottles at the team.

GREENE: The fans, throwing at the Georgetown players?

Mr. WANG: And the coaching staff, who had to duck as they were going into the tunnel. And the bottles missed the players and the coaching staff but hit some of the spectators who were watching in the stands behind the Georgetown bench.

GREENE: It's - we don't see this kind of violence, I mean, even when games in the Big East Conference, where Georgetown plays, can get pretty physical at the end of it...

Mr. WANG: No, you're absolutely right. And Georgetown has said as much. John Thompson III is like we're used to tough play. The Big East is the toughest conference in the country. We play Pittsburgh, Villanova, Louisville, Cincinnati every night. And they give...

GREENE: Of course.

Mr. WANG: ...us all we can handle. But we don't expect to have people step over the lines of sportsmanship, I think is the best way to phrase it.

GREENE: Tell us anything you can about the Bayi Rockets - the Chinese team they were playing.

Mr. WANG: Yeah, they're a Chinese military team, the players serve in the military. They're one of the best teams, actually, in the Chinese Basketball Association.

But the one thing I found very interesting was looking at the Chinese social media afterward, a lot of the Chinese citizens were blaming the Chinese team for being the agitators. And we interviewed a spectator who went to both of the Georgetown games, and he even said that it was kind of a shameful episode for the Chinese team.

GREENE: And we understand that China has actually censored much of the mainstream media and taken this story off...

Mr. WANG: Yeah. Well, they - that's true. they actually - two of the most prominent websites in China actually had stories up for about an hour before, I guess, the censors got wind of it and took it down. And I have not seen if our Post stories are being circulated there, but I would imagine not.

GREENE: These two teams are scheduled to face other again on Sunday night in Shanghai. I mean, is that any way that's going to happen?

Mr. WANG: See, that's something that definitely needs to be sorted out. I mean, I can't - I just, for the life of me, can't see that happening. Unless there's some detente, you know, and some easing of tensions and they decide that they want to kind of replay this, put that ugly scene behind them and, you know, play a real basketball game with none of the ugly stuff that happened.

GREENE: I look forward to reading your coverage.

That's Gene Wang of the Washington Post. We reached him in Shanghai.

Thanks for talking to us.

Mr. WANG: My pleasure.

(Soundbite of music)

GREENE: And you're listening to MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.