Following the battle between Liaoning Leopards players and fans of the Sichuan Blue Whale outside a downtown hotel in Chengdu, it was unclear what was going to happen next. Take your pick from substantial suspensions being dished out to the Leopards players that threw hands; the Finals getting suspended; the Blue Whale organization getting in trouble for their fans ambushing Liaoning players and family; the Chengdu city police force getting punished for not putting on better security at the hotel. Whatever way you look at it, everyone’s got something to be worried about.
But twenty-four hours later, some steps have been taken to move forward from the crisis– even if people still aren’t entirely clear about what happened and why things went down the way they did on Wednesday night.
Critically, it seems that the Finals will continue, despite rumors suggesting otherwise. This means Liaoning has one more road game at Sichuan on Friday in what is probably going to be the wildest Finals game for years. After that, the two teams return to Liaoning province for Game 5 and who knows what will happen after that.
For several of the Liaoning players who did fight, their fate is a little more unclear. Both Guo Ailun, He Tianju and one other player (back-up shooting guard, Liu Zhiyuan) have already flown back home and will likely not play on Friday. Media photos show Guo with a bandaged hand whilst He is also understood to have some kind of ailment as well (edit: it’s a metacarpal fracture). It looks like both injuries were picked up during their confrontation with fans. All this means that the Leopards will be without two starters and a useful rotation player for Friday and perhaps the rest of the Finals. Since last night, Guo has also come out strong on Chinese social media and made it clear he was defending his family. Finally, as news spread about their return, the Liaoning players found themselves met at the airport by a large number of hometown fans looking to make a show of support.
Another injured person, a security guard that some media are referring to as ‘Peng’ has been in local hospital since last night. He was reportedly knocked down some steps whilst trying to break up the fight, kicked whilst he was down by unknown assailants and has sustained some kind of serious head injury. Again, there has been no direct confirmation of this but the photos don’t look good. According to one report, a Liaoning representative has already come to visit the security officer in hospital and apologize for his team’s part in the disturbances.
Meanwhile, the Chinese press have weighed in with different amounts of tact. Some are reluctant to assert blame on either fans or Liaoning’s players until more facts come out but others have been a more strident. Several have been asking how fans were able to get so close to the players and their families (it should be noticed that the police presence surrounding both teams has increased visibly overnight). A fan poll on one sports site also showed overwhelming support for the players actions in protecting their families.
So right now, the situation looks like this; Liaoning and Sichuan will play on and the two key individuals caught up in the fracas have done the CBA a favor by getting ruled out of Game 4 with injury. The league therefore doesn’t have to punish them immediately and has more time to figure out what exactly happened on Wednesday night. In the meantime, the CBA Finals will probably draw their biggest ratings in years, although Sichuan will be heavily favored for at least the next game, and probably the rest of the Finals itself.