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NBA Star Donovan Mitchell Accused of “Insulting” Chinese Fans on Promotional Tour

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Just two weeks after James Harden was stopped by traffic police in Shanghai, another NBA player’s promotional tour in China is making headlines for the wrong reasons. Utah Jazz point guard Donovan Mitchell has been accused of “insulting” Chinese fans after apparently refusing to sign some autographs and then posting about it to his Instagram Stories.

It seemed like Mitchell’s tour to Shanghai and Harbin to promote his Spider-Man-themed Adidas sneakers was going pretty smoothly — if anything, he was further enhancing the “man of the people” reputation that he’s built by always seemingly having time for fans and offering up sound advice to them on Twitter.

Yet after a post on Mitchell’s Instagram about Chinese fans’ “persistence” when it came to wanting autographs made it to the front page of sports commentary site Hupu, many are now claiming he’s been disrespectful.

The video shows Mitchell in what seems like a hotel lobby saying, “Man, I’m just out here on this couch. They just out here chillin'”, as he pans the camera around to show a group of Chinese fans a few feet away. “They been out here since, like, in the morning,” he adds.

The Story is no longer available on Mitchell’s Instagram, but there are some heartwarming shots of his China tour, like this one:

View this post on Instagram

🕷🕸🏀 #Issue1Tour

A post shared by Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) on

Nice right? Dig into the comments on some of his recent posts however, and things are decidedly nastier. (Instagram is blocked in China, but can be accessed by using a VPN.)

“Why you take a video to sneer your fans? You will lose Chinese fans and lose the china market. You are a JOKER, your dunk like a shit. No one welcome you in china any more,” writes one apparently offended user.

“I feel so disapointed. They wait for you 8 hours because they super love you and appreciate you. Why you doing this?” posts another.

Of course Chinese fans deserve respect, especially the truly dedicated ones. And yes, Mitchell shouldn’t need tingling “Spida” senses to know that he should be a bit more careful on social media. But in the video it doesn’t seem like he’s being disrespectful exactly — perhaps a little thoughtless — and nor is it clear he actually refused to sign anything for them (although that is now what’s being said on Chinese social media). It kind of just seems like he wants a bit of personal space once in a while.

Related:

James Harden Stopped on Scooter by Shanghai Traffic Police

Anyway, given the value of the Chinese market to the NBA, Adidas, and Marvel (those Spider-Man shoes are naturally linked up with Far From Home), we expect an apology on Mitchell’s official Weibo to follow any moment now. As it is, the message displayed at the top of his page on the microblogging site is starting to look a little incongruous: “Great time in China!”, followed by (in Chinese) “I miss you, China!”

UPDATE: Some commenters are now suggesting the whole thing is a fake. There are claims that the video is an old one and that the fans Mitchell refers to in the video were actually waiting for autographs from Tracy McGrady (the pair were in China last year for another Adidas promo tour). Still no updates on Mitchell’s official Weibo or other social media regarding the matter yet.

Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for publications such as South China Morning Post and the Financial Times.