China fight caused Hoyas arrest concerns

November, 10, 2011
11/10/11
4:42
PM ET
One of the scariest and craziest -- OK, the scariest and craziest -- moments of the offseason came during Georgetown's exhibition trip to China. You've no doubt seen the footage by now, probably more than once.

John Thompson III was worried for the safety of his players even after he got everyone off the floor. The Hoyas didn't shower or wait around after the game. The parking lot was an ominous scene; they left as quickly as possible.

Soon thereafter, Georgetown released a diplomatic statement regarding the fight. Thompson continued the tour and helped turn the entire ordeal into a teachable moment. Thankfully, all was well.

It wasn't always that clear-cut. Speaking with The Junkies, a D.C.-area sports talk show, the Georgetown coach revealed that the fight nearly turned into an international incident -- and some State Department officials worried that China could have arrested some of the Georgetown players. Gulp. From the Washington Post's Dan Steinberg:
“So that night was tense. And I’m in the conference room with our AD and a couple university officials and the sports information director, and we’re trying to figure out what type of statement to release. And representatives from the State Department and representatives from Vice President Biden’s staff come in and say you know I don’t know whether you know this, this wasn’t just a fight at the game, this is quickly turning into an international incident, so you better make sure we get this statement right.

“And then what scared me was a guy from the State Department said ‘Now you’re fine tonight because you’re here, the Vice President’s here, we have Secret Service everywhere. If they feel like they are losing face with whatever statement you release....it would not be out of the question, when you get to Shanghai, that you and some of your players get arrested, if you don’t get the statement right.’"

As Thompson said, the statement was handled well, the heat died down, and the Hoyas were able to continue with their trip. But any missteps could have landed a handful of Hoyas -- or even their coach -- in Chinese state prison. It may sound like a great premise for a TV show, but it does definitely does not sound like the kind of educational cultural experience you hope for on an exhibition trip. Phew!

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