It’s ironic that a fabric no longer used in sportswear is threatening to have a lasting impact on Chinese sport. Cotton may have been replaced by polyester and other man-made materials but the row over Xinjiang cotton has replaced the NBA furore as Chinese sport’s latest bête noire. Nike’s comments – made last year no less – on their refusal to use Xinjiang cotton over human rights concerns were dragged up this week and with it the sportswear giant’s stock plummeted. Rival Adidas is in a similar boat, along with other international brands such as New Balance, as Chinese social media patriotism and government pressure pile up. Various celebrities have abandoned their own endorsement deals and have been praised in China for doing so. Sports stars have largely remained silent, bar for Chinese Basketball Associaton star Zhou Qi who pledged his support for Xinjiang cotton on social media. Jordan brand’s Guo Ailun sits out CBA game amid Xinjiang cotton row Users pointed out the irony that the Xinjiang Flying Leopards player did so wearing the Nike jersey of the national team. That’s part of the problem. Chinese sport – even esports – has deep ties with Nike, which provides the apparel for the CBA’s national teams and the Chinese Athletic Association. The latter signed a 12-year deal last January. Now everyone is waiting for CBA chairman Yao Ming to speak up so that the individual players – some of whom such as star Yi Jianlian have Nike deals – can follow suit. Until then a mystery injury is likely to stop Jordan brand athlete Guo Ailun from playing as it did on Friday night when his Liaoning side met Jilin in the Northeast Derby – a game that was shown on Chinese terrestrial TV. It’s even more precarious over at the Chinese Football Association, who are in bed with Nike for the national team and the Chinese Super League. Don’t do it? Chinese Super League extends Nike kit deal but not everyone is happy The CFA meeting on Nike this week was reported to have condemned the US manufacturer in the strongest terms but so far they have not broken off relations. Realistically, it’s hard to see how they can. Even with Chinese brand UCAN offering designs for potentially replacing the CSL and national team kits it would be a logistical nightmare for them to get this all sorted in less than a month. It’s a similar story with Kelme, the Chinese-owned Spanish brand that has reportedly offered to step in. Kelme already provide the kit for China League One and Two but they do not have the financial clout of the Nike deal, which is worth 1.2 billion yuan for the national team alone. For once this crisis is not of the CFA’s own making but it is one that they could do without ahead of a season that already looks troubled before a ball has even been kicked. Training ground images showed that Shanghai Shenhua and city rivals Shanghai Port trained with the Nike swoosh covered up. It’s all on message, striking the right tone with the public discord but where does this end? New Nike advert channels Cristiano Ronaldo in future where China dominates world football If it feels like we have been here before it’s because we have. This is the latest example of companies upsetting China and paying the price but now it seems higher than ever. China will show its authority and there will be damage to the profits that Nike and the like have come to rely on. In the meantime, Chinese sport is going to have to sit tight and hope it passes. It could be an uneasy few months. The government has called on the companies to “correct their mistakes” but it is hard to see how sport can follow suit. The Chinese Super League signed a 10-year deal with Nike in 2009 and extended in 2018 for another decade. The national team’s cooperation started in 2015 and is worth 1.2 billion yuan. No one else is going to offer that level of support. Even with a morality clause in place and the option for Chinese sport to cut ties with Nike, it’s too hard. Leaguewide deals are far from commonplace globally and for the sponsorship morasse that is the CSL that money is vital but as we have seen with the NBA row, which started from a single tweet, time does not necessarily heal all wounds. Chinese Super League clubs get bespoke Nike kits for 2020 season Though it had been expected to return after the All-Star Game earlier this month, the NBA is still not back on CCTV. There is no reason to think that this will be any quicker and it is already worrying that comments made in the past have suddenly been politicised for the patriots of social media. Every single player in the CSL and Chinese national team wears Nike football boots and a Chinese brand coming in to replace Nike then the team failing to qualify for the World Cup in Chinese equipment would be a potential embarrassment. IOC announced Anta has become their official sportswear uniform supplier until the end of 2022. Anta's supply will include apparel, shoes & accessories. Anta is also a long-term official partner of Chinese Olympic Committee and a partner of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. pic.twitter.com/xkf3SBQVts — Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) October 30, 2019 The issue has the potential to be embarrassing elsewhere. The International Olympic Committee has a deal with China’s Anta Sports that runs until the end of next year and covers the Tokyo Olympics this summer and then Beijing 2022 next January. After Anta reportedly pulled out of the Better Cotton Initiative – the Swiss-led group that has dropped Xinjiang fibre – to use Xinjiang cotton the IOC is probably going to come in for further criticism. It seems someone is going to lose their shirt in this but Chinese sport cannot afford to.