As with most basketball leagues, CBA cheerleaders are ubiquitous and part of the home team’s attempts to keep the fans engaged and the atmosphere suitably zesty. But this week, the cheerleading crew of the Shanxi Dragons almost sparked a stadium riot and the league office have been trying to recover ever since.
To cut a long story short; during the Dragons’ game with a team from Jiangsu province, Shanxi’s cheerleaders were continually trying to distract Jiangsu at the free-throw line by
waving pom-poms and trying to shake the frame of the basket itself. This happened multiple times and Jiangsu were making constant complaints to the match official as it happened. So when Shanxi’s cheerleaders kept doing it, a Jiangsu translator, Xue Fei (left), rose from the bench and tried to forcible move some of them away. There was some shoving during the brief confrontation before security rushed over and dragged Xue away.
What Xue did was not especially smart, especially at the home court of China’s most buck wild sports franchise. Remember, this is a team whose players have punched people in the nuts during a nationally televised play-off game and brawled afterwards in the locker room. They had an elderly coach who I personally saw stand up in the middle of a feisty game with Shanghai, talk shit with fans and beckon them to climb over the barrier and do something about it. Shanxi’s fans have a track record of pelting visiting teams with whatever they can lay their hands on and riot police were once needed to ensure Stephon Marbury could leave the arena with his life after cheap shotting a Dragons player back in 2012. Their former owner was so loathed by the league’s central office that it is widely assumed the CBA trumped up a failed drug test to ban Shanxi’s best player for the season and derail a second consecutive play-off run for the unfashionable side from Northern China.
Understandable, such rowdy fans did not take too kindly to the sight of their cheerleaders being shoved around. With objects flying down from the stands and people also starting to climb over the railings, security forcibly dragged Xu off the court and into a room in the bowels of the arena to be interrogated. There are conflicting reports about what happened but at least one major media outlet has reported that security also made the astounding decision to later lead Xu back to the Jiangsu team bench through a crowd entrance. Whether knowingly or not, leading Xu through a gauntlet of angry home fans sparked further anger and a Shanxi fan is reported to have pushed Xue to the ground as he was taken to the bench. A more obscure media source has suggested that the game security staff also got physical with Xue at some point. What absolutely did happen was that the game was delayed for several minutes whilst arena security tried to get everyone under control and stop a full-on riot breaking out.
Now the dust has settled, the league has began calling people to the naughty step. Xue, the Jiangsu official was fined 20,000 Yuan and suspended for the next two games. Meanwhile, Shanxi got 120,000 for their actions whilst the CBA decreed that team’s cheerleaders will be banned from performing indefinitely. Somewhat sardonically, Shanxi then responded to this by letting their dance crew watch the next home contest from the stands as if they were suspended players. Further punishment may still be handed down, especially if more comes out about Shanxi’s game security crew– who Xue has accused of treating him like ‘a prisoner’ and pressuring him into writing a statement taking the blame for what happened.
It wouldn’t be a CBA season without Shanxi doing something wild and the most balls-to-the-wall team in Chinese sport has come through with a corker. This is a little tame considering the Dragons’ lengthy rap sheet but its good to know that even the cheerleaders are going to do their best to screw rival teams around.