Keeping Score

Watch: Georgetown’s China Visit Erupts in Basketball Court Brawl

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The future of America’s already fragile economy, in large part, depends on China. What transpired on a Beijing basketball court Thursday won’t help in any trade negotiations.

A wild brawl (video above) broke out in an exhibition game between the basketball team from Georgetown – ironically, a school with a highly-regarded diplomacy program – and a Chinese professional team, the Bayi Rockets. It’s unclear who really started the fight: an on-the-ground report from the Washington Post said it was a “physical game marred by fouls.” Play was halted on several occasions throughout the game, and in the third quarter, a Chinese player verbally berated Georgetown coach John Thompson III. After Georgetown guard Jason Clark was fouled hard by a Chinese player, he gave the player some kind of shove: both benches soon emptied.

The question of who deserves more blame, however, is immaterial. Whenever brawls like these get out of control, both sides are usually responsible. And the images are damaging for both sides. What’s clear from the video is that, at one point, a Chinese player is seen repeatedly punching one of the Georgetown players. The Chinese players wielded chairs, and one Georgetown player reportedly had one thrown at him. According to the Post, a Georgetown player  walked on the court with a chair, but the team said he did so in self-defense. After Georgetown coach John Thompson III ordered his team to leave the floor with nine and a half minutes to go in the game, the crowd threw plastic bottles at the team.

(MORE: Race and the Georgtown Offense)

But there’s also a picture of a Georgetown player making a fist where he could be trying to make peace. There’s one of another player clutching the face of a Chinese player.

The bottom line is that none of this looks good, for either side. Even if it’s determined that Georgetown was acting almost entirely in self-defense, being known as “that team that fought in China” to casual fans won’t help the school, or the team.

One thing no one will remember is the final score. When Georgetown left the floor, the game was tied, 64-64.

Sean Gregory is a staff writer at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @seanmgregory. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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