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China's Yao Ming suing Coca-Cola

A Shanghai shop assistant shows a Coke bottle featuring Yao Ming's image.
A Shanghai shop assistant shows a Coke bottle featuring Yao Ming's image.

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Chinese basketball player Yao Ming is suing Coca-Cola for about 12 cents, accusing the world's largest soft-drink firm of using his image improperly, CNN confirmed Tuesday.

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

He also "demanded an open apology on nationwide media," as well as symbolic compensation of one yuan, or about 12 U.S. cents, according to the newspaper.

But Coca-Cola said that it used Yao Ming's image legally, citing a clause in the company's contract with the China Sports Management Company, the Chinese National Basketball team's license management group.

The clause allows Coca-Cola to use the likeness of any member of the Chinese National Basketball Team as long as three or more players appear together wearing the national team's uniform, the company said.

In the image in question, Yao Ming appears with China team-mates Guo Shiqiang and Menk Bateer, who is a reserve center with the San Antonio Spurs.

Wang Jian, general manager of the Chinese Sports Management Co, told China's state-run Xinhua news agency earlier this month that Coca-Cola had the right to use a "group image" of the Chinese team.

"Yao Ming isn't alone in the photo and he is with his national team-mates Bateer and Guo," Wang told Xinhua. "They are all wearing national team shirts," he added.

Coca-Cola has asked for a meeting with Yao or his representatives, but has not received a reply to its request. The company could not go into the details of the suit, saying that while it has been contacted about the filing, it has not yet seen the complaint.

CNN is still seeking comment from Yao Ming or his agent, Eric Zhang.

Zhang earlier was quoted as saying Yao Ming filed the suit against Coke's Chinese subsidiary last Friday. Yao Ming first voiced his concern about the image on May 15.

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