Update 5: John Thompson III, Jason Clark, and Hollis Thompson met with the Bayi Rockets coach and two players on Friday. According to a press release, it was an “amicable gathering.” Also, Vox received confirmation from Georgetown Sports Information Director Mex Carey that the Hoyas will not be playing the Rockets again on Sunday. That game was changed even before the two teams met on Thursday, although the schedule was not updated until afterwards. Sunday’s opponent will be the Liaoning Dinosaurs.
Update 3: Eric Cheng (COL ’13) was at the game and sent Vox an account of what he saw.
Update 2: Sportsgrid has obtained video of the brawl, which is posted after the jump.
Update: The Washington Post‘s Gene Wang, who is in Beijing with the team, has a complete story on what went down.
After touching down in China on Saturday, the Georgetown men’s basketball team’s two week tour of the country got off to an auspicious start with a number of cultural excursions and an exhibition victory over the Shanxi Dragons, complete with visit from Joe Biden. However, things took a turn for the worse in their game Thursday against the Bayi Rockets.
The game, which began at 5:30 p.m. local time in Beijing (5:30 a.m. ET) ended abruptly in the fourth quarter after a fight broke out on the court and fans began throwing bottles at the team, according to the Washington Post’s Gene Wang.
Accounts of the game have been appearing online from Georgetown supporters who were there in Beijing, including a lengthy account originally posted on Hoyatalk. Chinese language site SINA also has a recap of the game, along with a gallery of pictures (including the one of Jason Clark in this post) that make it clear this was no small altercation.
“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,” head coach John Thompson III said in a statement released after the game. “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.”
The competitive nature of the game has been called into question by the fan accounts of the game posted online. On Hoyatalk one poster described the officiating as “comical,” with increasingly questionable foul calls, to the point that the Rockets were shooting free throws nearly every time down the court heading into the four quarter. Based on updates from the official HoyasinChina Twitter feed, it appears that the Hoyas were leading or tied for most of the game despite the officiating.
The Bayi Rockets are a member of the Chinese Basketball Association, but they are affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army. All Rockets players serve in the PLA.
The Hoyas are scheduled to play a rematch against the Rockets on Sunday in Shanghai. There’s no word yet on the status of that game.
We’ll update this post as more information emerges from China.
Eric Cheng (COL ’13) was at the game with a group of Georgetown underclassmen, and he shared his account of the events with Vox via email. Cheng and his friends arrived at the game at halftime, but it didn’t take long for them to see the game was becoming out of control. Below is an excerpt from Cheng’s email:
After about 3 or 4 minutes into the 3rd quarter, it was apparent that officiating was not going to be reliable. The Hoyas were called for fouls essentially every defensive possession, while getting hacked and slapped mercilessly (without a whistle) on offense…
…Our [Georgetown] players were annoyed but clearly understood how meaningless a fight would be, initially. However, several Bayi players were continually screaming, not only at the referees, but also at JTIII! Some of the Hoyas were smiling as they were trying to lighten the mood and achieve a friendlier atmosphere (after all, it was a “friendship game”). Then in the 4th quarter, all hell broke loose…after a string of free throws brought the game even at 64, the fight happened. Jason Clark was fighting through some fierce but excessively physical defending to get past halfcourt, where he was immediately met by 4 opposition players, who apparently had decided to skip all pretense and literally assault Clark for the ball. Eventually, he passed the ball away, but was shoved to the ground as a result several hacks and forearm shivers. In this situation, anybody could be forgiven for defending themselves, but when Jason stood up, he was quickly confronted by the entire opposing team. At this point, the rest of our starters had stepped up to defend him, but the Bayi team decided to take it further when their bench jumped into the fray, some wielding chairs and others pulling Hoyas aside. There was barely any real security presence, so the fight continued for 2 or 3 minutes as coaches attempted to pull players aside. However, the other team did not seem to discriminate between our players and coaches, so it appeared as if JTIII made the decision to withdraw the team. It was at this point, as our players were escaping the fracas, that water bottles started raining down from the crowd. It was utter chaos; we were advised to exit through the same area as the players, as the crowd was getting dangerously wild. Thankfully, no one appeared hurt.
While people are bound to claim bias, I can objectively say that there were few, if any moments where a Georgetown player initiated contact with the other team. While they could have been more restrained in their reactions, several players on the other team were consistently looking to instigate a conflict. The amount of physical abuse directed towards our players without consequence was frustrating, but the opposition’s brazen attitude and aggressiveness in this exhibition game was incomprehensible…
…There was absolutely no order in that gym, and to be honest, many of us were afraid for our security, not as fans and players, but as members of the Georgetown community being targeted by a belligerent opposition team and fan base.