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Jose Calderon, Spanish Basketball Team Defend Asian Slant-Eye Ad

Written by:
Jagajeet Chiba
Published on:
Aug/13/2008
Spain Basketball Team Slant Eye Ad

Toronto Raptors guard Jose Calderon, a member of the Spain Men's Basketball team, defended his club's controversial advertisement where the entire squad posed while making slit-eyed gestures, saying it was an "affectionate gesture."

The ad in question was for a Spanish courier company, Seur, but the Spanish team also counts the athletic shoe and apparel company owned by Li Ning - the former Chinese Olympian who lit the torch at this summer's Games - among its sponsors, according to Martin Rogers of Yahoo Sports.

Jose Calderon of the Toronto Raptors has spent the last three years in North America, but he didn't get it. He could still not understand how an action with such deep racial undertones had generated so much attention. In his mind a non-story became a story only when it was blown out of proportion by journalists with a mind for mischief.

"We did it because we thought it was going to be something nice, something with no problem," Calderon told Yahoo! Sports. "But somebody wants to talk about it. It is too much of a big deal with you guys (the media) and everybody talking about that."

Head coach Aíto García Reneses also seemed oblivious to how this could have offended the Asian community.

"If I go to play with a taller team and I put here (raising up on the tips of his toes) it is not an offense," Reneses said. "I can't understand anything more."

Paul Gasol felt it was childish but posed for the ad anyway.

"Some of us didn't feel comfortable doing it just because to me it was a little clownish for our part to be doing that," Gasol said. "But the sponsors insisted and insisted. I think it is just a bad idea I guess to do that, but it was never intended to be offensive or racist against anybody."

It's a racially pejorative pose not often associated with goodwill in the United States and many other countries, where a similar gesture is more likely to be seen on a school playground than coming from Olympic statesman.

"It's something that I haven't seen since I was a kid," Sarah Smith, a spokesman for the Organization of Chinese Americans in Washington, D.C, told ABC News. "I can't speak for what is considered funny in Spain. I don't know if it has the same impact that it would here. It's clearly racist, and not even in a jovial way."

Gambling911.com's own Asian reporter, Jenny Woo, agrees.

"I don't know what they were thinking. I as a Korean American found the ad offensive to say the least and cannot believe there is not more of an uproar over this. It really hasn't been discussed much on the cable news stations."

Woo also wondered what's up next for the Spain basketball team.

"Let's hope they don't paint their faces black when they play Angola this week," she sneered. 

A post submitted to the Cleveland Leader about sums things all up:

The last I heard, it wasn't proper etiquette to publicly mock the Olympic hosts when you're a guest in their country. The Spanish basketball team, however, seems to have missed that memo. They've risked upsetting their Olympic hosts by posing for a pre-Games advertisement making slit-eyed gestures.

Spain was a huge -15 favorite against Germany on Wednesday. SBG Global was anticipating explosive betting action come Saturday when Team USA was to take on the Spaniards. Odds for this game were not yet set at press time.

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