BEIJING — The Chinese team that got into a nasty brawl with Georgetown University players in an exhibition game went to the Beijing airport Friday to reconcile with them.
A brief statement from Georgetown said coach John Thompson III and two of the team’s players met with representatives of China’s Bayi Rockets following “heated exchanges” in Thursday night’s exhibition game.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said Bayi members went to Beijing airport to see off the Georgetown team and the sides exchanged souvenirs.
“My understanding is that it’s all cleared up,” Cui told reporters at a briefing on Vice President Joe Biden’s ongoing visit to China. “We’re pleased about this outcome.”
The two teams had been scheduled to play each other again Sunday in Shanghai, according to Georgetown’s original itinerary for the trip, but the school will be playing the Liaoning Dinosaurs instead. Georgetown said Friday that the schedule change was made before Thursday’s game and was unrelated to the brawl.
Chinese basketball fans slammed Bayi, which is owned by China’s military, for its part in the brawl that forced the cancellation of a match intended to promote U.S.-China goodwill during Biden’s visit.
Video footage, showing players punching each other and throwing chairs, spread swiftly on the Internet and worldwide TV news.
It was the latest instance of on-court fighting by China, whose players have been fined tens of thousands of dollars by the world and Asian federations for scrapping with opponents.
In October, China’s national basketball coach, a manager and three players were suspended for an ugly brawl with Brazil’s team that left one Chinese player in a neck brace. Fights are also not uncommon at Chinese soccer matches.
The video clip appears to show American players falling over Chinese players as they all run for the ball, and then two members from each side slamming into each other. Seconds later, the brawl breaks out.
The Georgetown Hoyas are in China on a 10-day goodwill trip that has been cited by the U.S. State Department as an example of sports diplomacy that strengthens ties between the two countries’ peoples.
Su Qun, a well-known basketball commentator in China, said blame shouldn’t be aimed solely at the players.
“It’s not correct for players to fight. But we see fighting occasionally and it is often because of management problems in sports teams,” he said. “It’s important that teams have strict rules on discipline.”
Several NBA players have been considering China as a destination if their season is canceled because of the lockout. But the Chinese Basketball Association said Friday it would not accept NBA players who are under contract and would require any free agents to play for the full season.
Associated Press writer Louise Watt contributed to this story.