If the shoe doesn't fit

Updated: 2012-12-04 04:06

By Sun Xiaocheng (China Daily)

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CBA players are continuing to complain about the mandatory call to wear the league's partner's sneakers and being fined for violations.

Sportswear brand Li Ning, which has spent $321 million in a five-year endorsement with the CBA, requires all local players to wear its sneakers in games although foreigners can wear other brands, with the logos covered.

Twelve players, including Bayi Rockets veteran Wang Zhizhi and Beijing Ducks guard Stephon Marbury, copped fines of $3,210 after the first round for not wearing Li Ning sneakers or covering competing brands' logos.

Zhejiang's Ding Jinhui and Beijing's Lee Hsueh-lin were fined a combined $8,025 last Friday for continuing to wear the "wrong" shoes.

Players have been complaining about the league's over protection of the sponsor's rights.

"Every player has his right to wear what shoes are right for his feet to protect his body and well being while playing on the court," Marbury told China Daily on Monday.

"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."

Despite his complaints, Marbury followed the league's order and covered his 361 Degree sneaker's brand with tape in the third round to avoid more fines.

Ding, who used to wear adidas sneakers, also said the rule posed a risk to the players' health.

"My feet got injured seriously last year and could not fit in the required shoes. It's making a joke of my body. What can I do?" Ding said recently on his micro blog.

Ding's national teammate Wang and Shanghai Sharks' forward Tseng Wen-ting also attributed the rule to recent injuries.

"Tseng has a higher foot arch than anybody else and Li Ning hasn't found a pair of shoes to make him run comfortably on court," said Zhang Chi, the Sharks' deputy general manager. "We can't ask him to follow that rule with his health in jeopardy. He's not breaking the rule intentionally."

Realizing the fact not all players are comfortable in its products, Li Ning has allowed other brands on court if they pay a fee of $80,200 per player.

That is five times the price the former league sponsor, Anta, asked for last season.

"It's big money for some small brands as they signed the local players as season-long spokesmen for only one third or half of the fee. It's a cost too big to accept for some companies," said Yang Yi, a renowned CBA commentator.

Drawing a lot of criticism from players and media, Li Ning has decided to provide tailor-made service to any player who reports his sneakers to be too uncomfortable.

"We sent every player different kinds of shoes for trial during the preseason tournaments, and some of the players refused to try our products," Li Ning's chief marketing officer, Zhang Xiangdu, told Titan Sports on Monday.

"We will send designing crews to measure (players') feet sizes and related figures to make new shoes for them. Make sure they fit them. We spent much more money to support the league than the previous equipment sponsor, so we deserve the right to market our brand within the regulations."

According to Zhang, players are allowed to wear their own sneakers before the customized new ones are delivered.