Spanish basketball ad continues to stir controversy
A blog for the Los Angeles Times says the basketball player Pau Gasol's apology was not intended for the racial slight but for anyone offended by the racial slight.15 August 2008
MADRID - The Los Angeles Times is calling for Pau Gasol's head, and the Spanish Basketball Federation (FEB) is threatening to sue The Guardian for slander.
These are just two repercussions of the publication of a controversial advert showing the Spanish men's basketball team slanting their eyes in a supposedly jocular reference to China in Spanish sports daily Marca, and brought to light by the British daily on Sunday. The women's team also posed for a similar ad.
"Pau Gasol didn't say he was sorry for the racial slight. He said he was sorry if anyone was offended by the racial slight. That's not good enough," reads a blog for the Los Angeles Times.
"The sheer stupidity of the Spanish team photo does make me just shake my head," said one contributor to the LA Times' Lakers blog. "Being Asian and seeing this however, I do want to shake my fist."
But while the advert has dumbfounded the British and American online and print communities, apologetic reactions from Spain's players and federation have been sparse, and its media has largely framed the issue as a bogus cross-cultural attack.
On Wednesday, FEB president José Luis Sáez voiced his opinion: "This gesture is affectionate. The twisted minds that are searching for controversy - those in Britain and America - should first worry about their own problems with racism," he said, before stating that the Federation would not pull the ad. An unnamed representative for Seur, the ad's sponsor, told the New York Times the company had not received any complaints and would stand behind it.
The players have also largely shrugged off criticism of the gesture. José Manuel Calderón posted on his blog that it was meant to be "affectionate," or as a "wink at Beijing."
Gasol offered up a conditional apology "if anyone feels offended by it," although the NBA All-Star also admitted he had reservations at the photo shoot.
"To me it was a little clownish on our part to be doing that. The sponsor insisted and insisted... It was just a bad idea to do that. It was never intended to be offensive or racist against anybody," he told the New York Times.
For its part, the International Olympic Committee believes the incident "was clearly inappropriate, but we understand the Spanish team intended no offence and has apologised."
While China's own Olympic Committee has not commented, New York's Organisation for Chinese Americans filled in: "It's as if they are taunting - like kids to each other in school - it's a very childish advertisement," said Vicki Shu Smolim, the group's head.
"It's definitely not sending a message of sportsmanship, and is insensitive not only to the Chinese, but to all Asians."
But considering itself the injured party in the affair, the FEB announced that as a consequence of the "gratuitous" and "image-damaging" nature of the polemic, it is considering taking legal action against the "irresponsible media" that set it in motion.
Unfazed on the court, Spain beat Greece 72-59 Thursday and is in the Olympic quarterfinals.
[El Pais / Kelly Ramundo / Expatica]