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Spain Getting Flack For Photo

Spain's Olympic basketball team is still apologizing for taking a controversial photo in which all 15 players use their fingers to pull the skin behind their eyes and appear more Asian.

After Spain defeated Germany 72-59 on Thursday morning, Spanish point guard Jose Calderon said the photo, which has been running as an advertisement for a team sponsor in a newspaper in Spain since Friday, was never intended to offend anyone and has been blown out of proportion.

"For sure, we are going to apologize to the people who are hurt by that, but somebody is trying to make a big deal out of something that is not really doing nothing to help nobody," said Calderon, a point guard for the Toronto Raptors. "It's not really a good thing, if you just think a little bit - you don't do nothing bad about the country that you're going to live in for one month. It doesn't make sense."

(Seur via AP)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Paul Gasol told reporters this week that the picture was supposed to be funny, while Calderon said in his personal blog that the players were only meeting a request from a photographer. "One of our sponsors asked us to pose with a "wink" to our participation in Beijing, we made an oriental expression with our eyes," Calderon wrote. "We thought it was something appropriate and that it would always be interpreted as somewhat loving. Nevertheless, some of the European media did not see it this way."

Calderon added that "we have a huge respect for the East." Gasol said that it was "absurd" that people would consider the gesture racist.

The Spanish team is sponsored by Chinese shoe company Li Ning, which is named after the 1984 Olympic gold medallist who soared through National Stadium to light the torch during the opening ceremonies. Frank Zhang, the shoe company's director of government and public affairs, told the Associated Press that it was not a serious issue.

"We don't think this is an insulting gesture to the Chinese," Zhang said. "In fact, the gesture shows that the Spanish team is so humorous, relaxing and cute. They sat around a dragon pattern, which we think showed respect to the Chinese.

"Li Ning Ltd. will not change any business plans with the Spanish team because of this," Zhang added. "People should focus on great Olympic Games instead of something else."

Spain is 3-0 in the Olympics and will face the United States on Saturday.

By Michael Lee  |  August 14, 2008; 12:22 AM ET
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I've said it before and I'll say it again. Despite what we tend to think, the United States is one of the least racist countries on earth.

Posted by: Pindar | August 14, 2008 12:45 AM | Report abuse

I hear in Spain during futbol games the crowds and players make monkey sounds at all the black players, so I'm surprized to see Spanish players making slant eyes with their fingers. I'm very dissapointed in their behavior.

Posted by: Julie | August 14, 2008 2:24 AM | Report abuse

Just want to remember how the American Team celebrated the bronze medal at Japan (World basketball championship 2006).

This photo created a big controversial as well and I don't remember the washington post or the new york times doing an article to criticize it. Instead they published a proud article.

My conclusion here is that sometimes people decide to do some gesture in certain times that could create controversial. But saying that we are racist in such a globalized world....

Posted by: Ivan | August 14, 2008 4:20 AM | Report abuse

I am a Chinese, I don't think it is offensive but it's stupid, and I hope the players are not that stupid as they look

Posted by: Zhang | August 14, 2008 5:46 AM | Report abuse

I am ethnic Chinese, and I find it very offensive. Whenever anyone makes fun of your features/skin colour/culture ... it is not funny. If they were playing in Africa, will they paint their faces black?

Posted by: Kevin Tan | August 14, 2008 6:45 AM | Report abuse

They look like a bunch of morons. Judging by their blatant insensitivity, they not only look like a bunch of idiots, they ARE morons. The IOC should ban them. The Chinese in Beijing have been instructed to be well mannered and not spit on the road, but they can make an exception when they meet this bunch of Spaniards. Spit right in their faces for all I care. Idiots!

Posted by: Chen | August 14, 2008 6:54 AM | Report abuse

Poking fun at others, at ourselves is what the world needs in this overly sensitive, mad world. Politically correctness is dehumanizing and sanitizing the human race to walk the earth, faceless, emotionless.

Posted by: James Chun | August 14, 2008 7:15 AM | Report abuse

The Spanish women's basketball team posed for a similar photo. Team USA plays them tomorrow morning our time. Nuff said?

Posted by: Carol Anne | August 14, 2008 7:18 AM | Report abuse

If the olympics were in an african country and a team posed with Black Face on, there would be no comments about how political correctness is bad and this isn't a big deal. Everyone would be up in arms about it and everyone would know about it, I feel like this story isn't getting nearly the press it should be getting. Anyone who doesn't think this is wrong is ignorant and have probably never known what it's like to be a victim of prejudice or racism.

Posted by: Jeff | August 14, 2008 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps the Chinese national team should do a similar photo, but instead they would be holding their eyelids opened vertically in a bug-eye type jesture. After all, who's to say that round eyes aren't the "strange" ones? In any case it IS interesting (but not in a good way) that such a photo would emerge in 2008. Most unfortunate, and breathtakingly stupid.

Posted by: Bill | August 17, 2008 5:25 PM | Report abuse

I'm not (deeply) offended, but I would still like to kick the crap out of those fools - just in case the "real" racists get any dumb ideas. You know, set an example. Kinda like prison-house rules.

Posted by: mojo | August 19, 2008 4:24 PM | Report abuse

To put things in perspective, this is nothing compared to the US' "accidental" bom-bing -- oops! Tee hee! Didn't mean it! -- of the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia.

Posted by: mojo | August 19, 2008 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Time-slip, if you will, back to the 1950-1960's. The boss (of course, male) walks into the office, and pats his female secretary's rear end. He says, " I like them round and plump." Now, someone from the 21st century tells this boss that he has done and said an awful thing, and he is being downright sexist.

His response: "I was giving my secretary a friendly greeting. It was just harmless fun. It is absurd for anyone to make a big thing of it. How could women possibly take offense at this? I'll have you know that I am friends with many women!"

Dear stupid Spaniards, don' t you think it's about time you learned that it is offensive when the people you direct your words and actions think it's offensive. The one dishing it out has no say in whether people should be offended or not.

Join us. We have already moved into the 21st century. Hope you can catch up.

Posted by: Tad Nathaniel | August 19, 2008 10:52 PM | Report abuse

I am Chinese-American and find it offensive that athletes of this caliber are not sensitive to different cultures, backgrounds, and appearances. This team is ignorant and should be taught about stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination that continues to happen in our world today.

Posted by: Janice | August 21, 2008 3:06 AM | Report abuse

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