Chinese Basketball Association club Zhejiang Guangsha Lions were hit with the largest-ever fine in league history after a pre-match, online promotional poster angered the Chinese government.
The Hangzhou-based Lions were fined ¥1m ($143,500/€130,000) after its post on Weibo showed its lion mascot dressed in historical Communist Party uniform and referenced the former Communist Party chairman and founding figure of the Republic of China, Mao Zedong. Lions players were also dressed with red neckerchiefs in the style of children during the Chinese Revolution. The poster was promoting a game between the Lions and the Bayi Rockets.
A slogan on the poster that read “if you are backward, you will take a beating” also drew ire from the CBA. “One will be beaten if lagging behind” is a historical propaganda slogan of the Communist Party. The league released a statement saying the poster had “extremely negative social impacts” and that the person responsible would be banned from working with the league for life.
The CBA also revoked the Lions’ eligibility for any awards this season and urged all clubs and teams to “advocate the core values of socialism” and “promote the positive energy of the CBA”.
The Lions issued an apology on Friday, saying the error was caused by “serious negligence from the design and proofreading team” and that it had “hurt the feelings of the public”. The club added it had fired the relevant staff and would “conduct moral studies earnestly, improve the level of self-recognition, control the relevant work processes strictly and prevent such things from happening again”.
The punishment comes less than a week after French basketball player Guerschon Yabusele was warned and fined ¥10,000 for failing to gaze at the Chinese national flag while the national anthem was being played before a match. The 23-year-old, who joined the CBA from the NBA in August, plays for the Nanjing Monkey Kings in Jiangsu, eastern China.