Chinese basketball fans were caught on camera shouting the N-word at an African American athlete after a game.
In a video circulating on social media, Sonny Weems, a former NBA player who now plays for the Guangdong Southern Tigers at the Chinese Basketball Association, was seen getting off a bus when several fans were heard shouting the N-word repeatedly.
They also told the athlete to “get out of China,” “fuck you,” and “stop fucking laughing” as the athletes walked past the crowd.
The incident took place last Wednesday night, after Weems engaged in a courtside scuffle with a Chinese member of the Liaoning Flying Leopards. The two were both ejected from the court and given penalties.
The abuse against Weems has indicated insensitivities toward racism in China. Racial slurs against Black people are commonly seen on the internet and often ignored by censors who otherwise diligently remove politically sensitive content.
In a statement issued the next day, CBA said the racist abuse had severely damaged the image of CBA and its fans, and it vowed “zero tolerance” toward racial discrimination. It also published an open letter calling on fans to boycott vulgarities and refrain from making controversial remarks in the lead-up to the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Weems posted a string of colorful heart emojis on the microblogging site Weibo, without elaborating. He did not respond to requests for comment from VICE World News.
Taiwanese American Jeremy Lin, also formerly with the NBA, condemned the racial abuse in a lengthy Weibo post. “I experienced first hand what it was like to be in a place where I was seen as a ‘foreigner’ and called a ‘Chinese man,’” he wrote. “The abuse suffered by Weems makes one feel really disrespectful. That word came with too much of the harm, injustice and hatred that could not be described with words.”
While many expressed support for Lin and Weems, others have pushed back against Lin’s statement, accusing him of imposing an American racial ideology onto China.
Under Lin’s post, a hostile comment that contained the N-word got more than 2,400 likes. Some others said racist attacks were wrong, but Weems should also be blamed for allegedly hurting the Chinese player during the game.
Racial slurs including the N-word often get used when Chinese internet users express frustration toward African immigrants in China or what they perceive to be political correctness going too far in the West.