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Spanish men's team causes a stir with offensive ad

August 12, 2008 |  7:33 pm

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Did the Spanish men's basketball team inadvertently poke itself in the eye with an advertisement in a Spanish sports newspaper that shows the team members making slit-eyed gestures?

The controversy began with this story by Sid Lowe, a reporter for Britain's Guardian newspaper. The headline on his piece: "Olympics: Spain's eye-catching faux pas."

El Mundo, one of Spain's largest newspapers, didn't run the advertisement. But it does have a story with a photo (above) of the advertisement question. And the headline for El Mundo's story translates as "Racism or an affectionate gesture?"

Meanwhile, Olympian and Toronto Raptors player Jose Manuel Calderon tries to ease the tension on his website. (Also worthy of note: Calderon, Pau Gasol and the Spanish team on Tuesday upended China, 85-75, in an overtime victory in Olympic basketball play.) Here's part of what Calderon had to say:

I would like to share a story with you about something that happened with the Spanish National Team that someone interpreted incorrectly. It happened in the photo session where the Spanish National Team was introduced; one of our sponsors asked us to pose with a “wink” to our participation in Beijing, we made an oriental expression with our eyes. 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.

From here I would like to declare that we have a huge respect for the East and their people, some of my best friends in Toronto are from China and one of our Spanish National Team sponsors is the Chinese brand Li Ning. Anyone who would like to interpret this differently is absolutely confused.

Getting back to basketball, now we have to prepare because the next game against Germany will be at nine in the morning, so we have to get up at five. I hope that our “foolish” day is now history.

Hope springs eternal.

-- Greg Johnson

Photo: The Spanish men's basketball team in an advertisement that has sparked controversy over whether it is racist, ill-advised or funny. Credit: El Mundo

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