SHANGHAI - Fans of the Shanghai Sharks basketball team taunted their Nanjing opponents with a death chant on the anniversary of a 1937 Japanese military massacre in their city, triggering outrage and an investigation.
The Sharks, best known as the team where Yao Ming made his name before starring in the NBA, apologized to visitors Nanjing Tongxi Monkey King following the abuse on Thursday evening.
With the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) match going to the wire, home Shanghai fans are accused of shouting at the side from nearby Nanjing: “Why didn’t the Nanking Massacre kill your team?”
The city is currently called Nanjing, but at the time of the massacre, it was named Nanking.
The massacre is a hugely sensitive topic in China, which says that 300,000 people died in a six-week spree of killing, rape and destruction by the Japanese military.
Some respected foreign academics estimate a lower number of victims, but mainstream scholarship does not question that a massacre took place and each year solemn memorials are held on Dec. 13 in China to remember the victims.
After the match, which Shanghai won 111-103, Nanjing Tongxi said they “strongly condemn” the abuse directed at their players.
“We cannot imagine that there are fans who provoke the team with such painful history,” the club said in a statement on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, demanding police action.
The abuse “crossed a moral” line, the club added.
Fans and both teams stood in silence before the match to remember the Nanking victims, and the Sharks said they were “deeply sorry” for what transpired afterwards.
“Our club will immediately conduct a detailed investigation into it together with the relevant (official) department and will announce the result of the investigation at soon as possible,” the club said on Weibo.
There was no immediate word from the CBA, but Weibo users reacted with fury.
One said: “Shanghai should be kicked out of the CBA.”