Sonny Weems, a former NBA player who now plays for the Guangdong Southern Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), was subjected to racial discrimination when fans shouted the n-word at him after a recent game.
The incident occurred after the game between the Southern Tigers and the Liaoning Flying Leopards last Thursday when Weems, 35, encountered enraged fans who hurled racial slurs at him as he was exiting his team’s bus, CNN reported.
The American basketball player got into a fight with Han Dejun of the Flying Leopards during the third quarter of the game, which angered fans.
A video of the incident circulating on social media shows Weems ignoring the racial slurs hurled at him by Leopards fans, who called the athlete the n-word and told him to “get out of China.” He also seemingly “flashed a smile” at the angry CBA fans, prompting one of them to say “Don’t you give me a smile!” in Mandarin.
The fight broke out after Han reportedly fell while trying to guard Weems, who drove into the basket in the third quarter of the game. Han allegedly went to the Southern Tigers’ bench to punch Weems in the face as the referees watched a video replay for any foul calls. Xinhua noted that Weems fought back.
Han was suspended for seven games and fined 200,000 yuan (approximately $31,440), while Weems was suspended for five games and was slapped with a 140,000 yuan (approximately $22,000) fine.
Although Weems has yet to address the racist remarks he received after the game, many of his fans, as well as fellow CBA player Jeremy Lin, showed him support on social media.
“The abuse Weems received really was disrespectful, that word carried so much hurt, unfairness and hatred that I couldn’t put into words,” Lin wrote on Weibo.
Meanwhile, the CBA issued a statement on social media on Friday saying the association “firmly opposes and strongly condemns any form of racial discrimination.”
The Flying Leopards and the Southern Tigers also condemned the fans’ alleged racist behavior. “Respect for the opponent is a basic quality that every player should have, and it is also a basic requirement for a qualified fan,” the Flying Leopards wrote in a recent statement.