The National Basketball Association's appointment of Cai Xukun as the NBA Chinese New Year Celebration Brand Ambassador has sparked a macho backlash among some fans.
Cai, one of the most popular idols in China, has more than 20 million followers on Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo.
In a 30-second video of NBA stars sending out Chinese New Year greetings, Cai makes his first official appearance as the NBA's Chinese New Year Celebration Ambassador.
This caused furious debate, as Cai's delicate features posed a striking contrast with NBA's more traditionally masculine basketball players.
This hostility has been especially obvious on Hupu, a Chinese sports platform that is home to the biggest Chinese NBA community. Hupu is often regarded as a "straight man" platform and so is home to many users who are seemingly unfriendly toward male idols that they see as being too "feminine."
In a poll on Hupu, more than 82 percent of participants— went to extremes, ticking the option of "I'd rather die" at the news about Cai's NBA mission.
The situation was totally different in the comment section of the Chinese New Year video as most posts were from Cai's fans.
In China, Cai's fan groups are famous, or perhaps infamous, for their ability to come together to promote the singer through activities such as mass posting to comment threads, spinning negative news and arguing with anyone who dares insult their beloved idol.
It certainly seems there is a very large split between Hupu users and Cai's followers.
Adding fuel to the fire was a highly inflammatory article titled "Hiring Cai as an image ambassador: The NBA should apologize to Kobe and Yao Ming" published on Saturday on Wechat. Throughout the article, which already has more than 100,000 views, the author referred to Cai as an "image ambassador," which can be misleading as it indicates the singer is representing the NBA as a whole instead of just for the Chinese New Year holiday. This has lead many netizens to think that Cai has become a spokesman for the NBA.
According to NBA China, for two weeks before and after the Chinese New Year, many stadiums will sport traditional Chinese decorations, while 15 NBA teams will host activities at these locations to celebrate the holiday. Some US teams, such as the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors, have put on Chinese-style jerseys during matches.
According to NBA China, their aim is simple: have NBA teams celebrate Chinese New Year together with Chinese people and Chinese stars. With this in mind, the NBA reaching out to Cai should not entail special connotations.
Before Cai, the NBA had already cooperated with popular Chinese stars such as singer Kris Wu, who has joined the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game for three years in a row now.
These collaborations are usually based around single events. In fact, it is rare to see any long-term or commonplace cooperation between the NBA and Chinese stars.
However, as the boundaries between industries continue to blur, young fans from both sides need to learn how to understand and communicate with each other.