Basketball Diplomacy: Georgetown Basketball Team Brawls in China

Aug 18, 2011 1:10pm

ABC News' David Reiter (@reiterabc) reports:

At the same time that Vice President Biden is in China to work on relations with that country, another American institution, The Georgetown men’s basketball team, wasn’t helping the cause. 

An exhibition game between Georgetown and the Chinese professional team Bayi Rockets “deteriorated into a melee during which players exchanged blows, chairs were thrown and spectators tossed full water bottles as Hoyas players and coaches headed to the locker room at Olympic Sports Center Stadium,” according to the Washington Post’s Gene Wang. Read his story.

Georgetown Coach John Thompson III pulled his players off the court with less than ten minutes left in the game and the scored tied at 64.

The team is on a 10 day trip, according to the university.  Team members were briefed by state department officials in advance about what to expect in Beijing and Shanghai and about the status of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China (this won’t help.)  Before the trip, head coach John Thompson III commented on the goals.

“There are as many people playing basketball in China as there are in the United States, and that's an amazing statistic,” Thompson said. “From an institutional standpoint, we're getting a chance to represent Georgetown and increase our reputation in China. President John J. DeGioia has focused on reaching out to other countries as a global institution, and this trip is part of that work.”  The official website of the university is leading with a story titled “China Trip Historic Chance For Engagement - President DeGioia discusses how the Hoyas' trip to China will highlight the global context in which basketball is played today.”

After the game, Thompson had to make a different kind of statement

“Tonight two great team played a very competitive game that unfortunately ended after heated exchanges with both teams,” Thompson said in a statement. “We sincerely regret that this situation occurred.”

A Twitter account set up to follow the Hoyas’ trip to China noted during the game that ended in fighting that “Coach is getting animated — Hoyas all about grabbing the W,” and that he threw a towel.

Just before the fight broke out, @hoyasinchina tweeted, “Oh man! Tied up at 62 with 11 minutes to play!” which was soon followed by, “Thanks to all who have been showing so much support. We really appreciate it a ton… Hold tight for updates.”

Vice President Biden had actually attended a Georgetown basketball exhibition match with a different Chinese team the night before.

Read about Biden’s trip to China.

Biden, in China on the first leg of an overseas trip that also includes stops in Mongolia and Japan, told reporters many Hoyas had asked him to attend the “friendship match” given the coincidental convergence of their schedules.  

ABC News' John R. Parkinson (@jrpabcdc) and Devin Dwyer (@devindwyer) contributed to this report.

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