Chinese Ball Player Says Coke Is Not It

After less than a year playing professional basketball in the United States, it appears that one foreign player has caught on to at least one America custom – lawsuits.

In Bejing, China, Chinese basketball player Yao Ming is suing Atlanta based Coca-Cola, accusing the soft drink giant of using his image improperly.

But Yao, unlike the lawsuit lottery played back in the States, is only suing for a symbolic compensation of one yuan – the equivalent of 12 cents and an open apology.

I guess we can excuse Yao for not having this suing thing down after only a few months in the U.S. Come on, for crying out loud, how can a lawyer make any real dough when you only sue for 12 cents?

Yao, who plays center for the Houston Rockets and is a spokesman for Coca-Cola rival Pepsi Co., demanded the immediate recall of all Coca-Cola products and promotional materials bearing his image and name, according to the China Business Weekly.

It seems that Coke got itself into this mess by using Yao’s image on its products in Shanghai, citing that it had a contract with the Chinese Basketball Association to use the image of any athlete on the national team, including Yao.

Coca-Cola, one of the best-known foreign brands in China, was negotiating with Yao and his agent to resolve the dispute but would not pull products carrying Yao’s image..

Coke said it would soon launch a new campaign carrying the images of three other members of the national team.

Sources: Reuters, “Rockets’ Yao Ming Sues Coke Over Image Use,” May 27, 2003.