The days of Ping-Pong Diplomacy appear to be long gone.
What was billed as the "China-U.S. Basketball Friendship Match," between Georgetown University's Hoyas and the Bayi professional team affiliated with the People's Liberation Army devolved into sheer chaos Thursday night in a brawl that ended when the Hoyas' coach halted the game and led his team off the court.
The details remain murky and neither side has stepped forward to clarify what exactly set off the fight, but disturbing images and video show at least one Chinese team member repeatedly punching a Georgetown player in the chest. In another photo, several Chinese players and one unidentified man not in uniform prepare to stomp on a Georgetown player who has fallen to the ground on his back.
Online in China, the Bayi team has become the subject of mockery and derision. Commenters are comparing them to China's national soccer team — a losing squad that no sports group wants to be known as.
Basketball can be rough stuff in China, off the court. Provincial team fans are known for brawls in the stands, although defenders of Bayi say Georgetown's aggressive style of play probably ruffled feathers among Chinese players, who tend toward a more hands-off game. In any case, the brawl attracted more attention than it might have otherwise, given the fact that it broke out while U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was in town for his first official visit.
Biden was not at the game, but watched the Hoyas defeat another Chinese team the night before in Beijing.