Friday, August 15, 2008

Bonehead Move

This is the team photo of the Spanish Mens Basketball team that is currently competing at the Olympics in Beijing. The photo was taken to be used in a promotion for a courier company that sponsors the Spanish Basketball Federation and was used in a full page ad of the popular sports daily newspaper Marca.

Jose Calderon, a member of the team, said that the sponsor asked the team "to pose with a 'wink' to our participation in Beijing" and that "we made an Oriental expression with our eye." Calderon also said, "I want to say that we have a great respect for the Orient and their peoples. Some of my best friends in Toronto are of Chinese origin." I personally like Jose Calderon and I feel that he is telling the truth when he says that the photo was not meant to be racist.

The Spanish team have said that this photo was not meant to be offensive but clearly it has offended some people. Asian rights groups in the United States, China, and all over the world are very upset about the photo and it has been called "disturbing" and "divisive."

The trouble that I have with the photo is whether it was meant to be innocent or not the players and team officials should know that in this day and age people are easily offended and that "jokes" like this are always misinterpreted. Plus what kind of a joke is making a simple wink? No one looked at this photo and thought 'oh hey they are winking that is funny'. Everyone assumed that they were making a racist gesture and that is why the photo is so offensive.

Pau Gasol, the team captain, made a public apology to the media on behalf of the team the other and said, "If anyone feels offended by it, we totally apologise for it." While I feel this is a decent enough apology many people feel it was half hearted and that Gasol missed the real issue. He never said that he was sorry for doing it only that he was sorry if he offended anyone. People are getting stuck on the details and are asking for a more sincere apology that I can promise you will not be coming anytime soon.

To make matters even worse Spain is currently in the process of making a bid for the 2016 Olympics games and do not need this kind of negative publicity. This incident added to other numerous incidents of late are not casting a positive light on Spain. Spanish sport has been placed under severe scrutiny for a number of recent incidents, including the monkey chants aimed at England's black football players by football fans at a November 2004 friendly in Madrid.

The controversy has not affected the team on the court however as so far they are undefeated in the tournament with big wins coming over Germany and China. Talk about rubbing salt in the wound.

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