A Chinese basketball star has publicly apologized after drawing outrage on social media for taunting a rival player with a sexist comment.
Zhang Tianyi, 23, engaged in a verbal spat with Cheng Xinkai following a match in Shaanxi province on Jan. 17, local media reported.
“I have received more honors than you,” Cheng commented, to which Zhang replied: “I have slept with more girls than you.”
While the remark earned cheers and applause from spectators at the venue, it did not sit well with social media users after a video of the exchange emerged online.
Many found Zhang’s comment to be sexist for portraying women as “trophies” rather than human beings.
In response to the backlash, Zhang posted a video on Douyin, saying: “I am making an apology to the public. I didn’t have the intention to disrespect women when I said that sentence and I didn’t feel any pride in saying it.”
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According to Zhang, Cheng belittled his achievements because he had not received any awards from the collegiate league Chinese University Basketball Association (CUBA).
Zhang was barred from playing in the CUBA after he was expelled from Xiamen University in 2019.
“He pointed to my weak point and made me feel embarrassed,” Zhang was quoted as saying. “He wanted to infuriate me for some purpose. I thought I should not get angry but could resort to self-mocking trick.”
Zhang, who won the MVP title in the 2018 China High School Basketball League Championship, added that his controversial comments were made impulsively and “only aimed at Cheng” because he “wanted him to shut up.”
Zhang has since been fined for his comments and barred from playing in his team’s recent matches.
The athlete’s video, which generated over 10 million views on Douyin alone, further sparked online discussions on gender equality in China, according to South China Morning Post.
“Some women might not know that many men regard them as trophies,” a Weibo user commented. “The more women they own, the more proud they feel. In those men’s eyes, women are not humans, but goods.”
“What was blurted out must be what he really thought,” chimed in another. “What’s more, he said in a proud tone. Girls should stay away from this kind of guy.”
“The people surrounding Zhang and hailing him after he said he had slept with many girls demonstrate the general attitude in society,” another wrote. “It’s so sad.”