Former table tennis champion Zhang Jike loses partnerships with brands following controversy
Published: Apr 04, 2023 02:26 AM
Zhang Jike Photo: VCG

Zhang Jike Photo: VCG

In the past week, former Chinese table tennis superstar and world champion Zhang Jike has been embroiled in a controversy over alleged gambling debt and spreading other people's private videos. Although the star's camp has denied all the accusations, many of the brands currently or formerly endorsed by Zhang announced an end of their collaboration with him or removed his content on Monday.

China's major sportswear brand Anta was the first to be found to have removed all of its published content related to Zhang on Monday afternoon. Subsequently, the customer hotline of Anta confirmed to the media that the brand has terminated all cooperation with Zhang.

Following Anta, Japanese automobile manufacturer Toyota also deleted all Zhang-related content on its Sina Weibo account and took down promotional materials.

Later on Monday afternoon, Chinese nutrition firm Nuotelande said in an announcement that it had terminated all forms of cooperation with Zhang.

Other brands that have previously had cooperation or endorsements with Zhang, including Safeguard, Runbaiyan and Inoherb also removed content related to Zhang.

Zhang is one of the most commercially valuable stars in Chinese sport. After he reduced his participation in professional competitions, he took part in several variety shows and has many brand endorsement contracts.

In 2017, Zhang was ranked the second-richest sports star in China with an annual income of 60 million yuan in 2016, according to a sports media outlet. However, public information shows that a beverage brand he started in 2018 has hit difficulties after failing to pay its debts.

In the past week, rumors about Zhang's alleged criminal activities started circulating on several online platforms. According to these rumors, Zhang once owed several million yuan in debts due to gambling. To get out of paying the debt, he allegedly sent the creditor private videos of his then-girlfriend, a famous Chinese actress, to allow him to use the videos to collect the debt from the actress.

On Thursday, Zhang's team posted a statement on China's Twitter-like platform Sina Weibo denying the rumors. Zhang's attorney also released a statement saying an investigation has been started to collect evidence and legal action will be taken.

China's Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission (CPLC) has urged the department concerned to investigate the incident and make the results public as soon as possible in an editorial article published on Monday night.

No one will receive special treatment due to their "special status" as equality under the law applies to all, the CPLC said, while noting that disinformation and slander will also not be tolerated.

Zhang Jike is among the most notable players in table tennis history and has a major fan base in China. He is a three-time Olympic gold-medalist, has been crowned world champion seven times and is a six-time ITTF World Cup singles and doubles champion.

Global Times