Ex-NBA star Stephon Marbury blasted the Chinese Basketball Association's strict sponsorship rules after he was fined for failing to cover up the logo on his own-brand shoes.
Marbury, whose Starbury line of basketball shoes is proving a hit in China, said it was "not right" that players were forced to wear footwear made by league sponsor Li-Ning or conceal the logos of competing brands.
"Every player has his right to wear what shoes are right for his feet to protect his body and wellbeing while playing on the court," Marbury said. "It is not right that players can't have a choice to wear what's comfortable while playing at a high level. Safety is first and it's my right."
Marbury, who plays for the Beijing Ducks, was fined US$3,210 for not covering his own 361 Degrees brand on the opening week of the season, but has since complied with the league's rules.
While Marbury is permitted to wear his own brand of shoe, the sponsorship deal requires domestic players to wear Li Ning or pay US$80,200 to wear other brands. Many players have complained about overprotection for the sponsors from the CBA, particularly those who claim to wear other brands for health reasons.
Ding Jinhui, who plays for Zhejiang Golden Bulls, was fined for continuing to wear the "wrong" shoes last Friday, the China Daily reported. He claims to be wearing a different brand to help him recover from injury.
"Players must wear designated shoes from the sponsors this season, but my feet got injured seriously last year and cannot fit in the sponsor's shoes," Ding said on Sina Weibo. "It's making a joke of my body. What can I do?"
The league has a US$321 million, five-year sponsorship agreement with Li Ning. The sports brand also provides a tailor-made service to players who claim their shoes do not fit.
"We sent every player different kinds of shoes for trial during the pre-season tournaments, and some of the players refused to try our products," Li Ning marketing chief Zhang Xiangdu said.