BEIJING - 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, state media reported Tuesday.
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 logo when wearing another brand.
"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 told the China Daily.
"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 $3,210 for not covering his own 361 Degree sports 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 $80,200 to wear other brands.
Many players have complained about overprotection for the sponsors from the CBA, particularly as some claim to be wearing 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 said. 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. It's making a joke of my body. What can I do?" Ding said on Sina Weibo, China's version of Twitter.
The league has a $321 million five-year sponsorship agreement with Li Ning.
The sports brand also provides a tailor-made service to players who claim their shoes are uncomfortable, the China Daily said.
"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 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."
Excitement is soaring for this year's CBA season, which will feature three former NBA All Stars for the first time.
Marbury is joined by Tracy McGrady, a former team-mate of Chinese basketball superstar Yao Ming, and Gilbert Arenas, who are heading a cohort of 28 ex-NBA players who have made a new start in China.
McGrady recently joined Qingdao Eagles and Arenas has signed for Shanghai Sharks after a two-week try-out.
Arenas and Marbury both have their own brand of sports shoes.
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