NBA China Ad Featuring Male Singer Reignites Masculinity Debate

Some netizens call pop star Cai Xukun’s association with the basketball league ‘garbage,’ while others argue that he could help attract more female fans.

Shi Yangkun/Sixth Tone

A 20-year-old boy band member is at the center of yet another debate on masculinity after NBA China released a Lunar New Year promotional video featuring the pop idol.

Cai Xukun, a singer with the group Nine Percent, has been called effeminate and not masculine enough by netizens arguing that his appearance and personality aren’t fit to be associated with a professional sports league. According to NBA China, Cai is the first Chinese star to ever be featured in an NBA promotional video celebrating the Lunar New Year holiday, or the Spring Festival. The 30-second clip, released Friday, also features big-name players Giannis Antetokounmpo, Klay Thompson, and Damian Lillard.

The pop singer is the latest celebrity targeted for what many see as a deviation from traditional gender norms. Men’s earrings were blurred out in an online show that aired earlier this month, and state news agency Xinhua mocked the country’s androgynous and effeminate male idols as “sissy pants” in September, condemning the trend as a “sick culture” that negatively impacts teenagers.

In an online poll conducted on Chinese sports forum Hupu, a majority of the 42,000-plus respondents dismissed Cai’s participation in the video as “garbage.” Read the full article here.


– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.