Patriotism Should Not Cloud Business Rules

By Silvi writer

Don’t allow patriotism cloud your vision, it’s all about business.

What I am talking about is the dispute between China’s swimming superstar Sun Yang and the country’s sportswear giant Anta.

The 26-year-old Sun was caught between two sponsors – Anta, which is the Chinese delegation’s official sponsor, and his own 361° brand on Aug 20 in Indonesia. After winning the Asian Games 800m men’s freestyle event, Sun came out for the medal ceremony in the bright yellow colours of his personal sponsor.

Later in the evening, during the ceremony for the men’s 4x200m men’s relay – in which China finished second – Sun was wearing the official uniform but he covered the white top with the Chinese flag, “looking at times like a brooding red batman without the cowl”, the South China Morning Post said.

Anta issued a 103-word long statement saying it had created an award-winning suit for the Chinese delegation that represented the spiritual force of the mainland athletes, and the suit was not only a symbol of the athletes’ outstanding performance but also portrays the country’s reputation, image and credibility.

It claimed that Sun was “putting personal gains above national interest” and such behaviour, which is “unprecedented in the sports history of the world”, would cause “severe impact on China’s national image”.

It said, but only in eight words, that it’s part of the contract that all Chinese athletes must wear the same award-winning suit.

The statement also said Sun’s behaviour has “crossed the bottom line”.

I am not trying do defend Sun, but I don’t see how his wrongdoing may tarnish China’s national image, reputation and credibility.

He is not the first Chinese athlete to face such a commercial dilemma.

At last year’s Chinese National Games, basketball players Zhou Qi and Guo Ailun were ordered to cover up a sponsor’s shirt they were wearing underneath their Liaoning team uniform as they were presented with their gold medals by CBA chairman Yao Ming.

Badminton megastar Lin Dan also faced a similar conflict of interest after signing an endorsement deal with a rival of team sponsor Li Ning.

In fact, at the core of this dispute was Sun has violated the business rules.

Anta has been Team China’s official partner at Olympics and Asiads since 2009. Last year, Anta signed a renewal of their agreement with China until 2024.

Sun has been contracted to 361°, Anta’s arch rival, since 2011.

In Asiads, there is no doubt that Sun should wear Anta suits. He should be punished for that fault.

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But Anta’s statement was trying to let patriotism and emotions blind others’ judgment. It was playing up the issue.

Chinese netizens, whose totally population has reached 800 million according to official statistics this week, have gone into an frenzy, mostly against Sun.

In its statement, Anta also that they “believe that the Chinese delegation should react fairly to the violation of regulations”.

It looks inevitable that Sun will expect some sort of punishment.

I just hope the punishment will be made purely based on rules and terms in the contract, but nothing else.

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