Spanish team

By now you may have already heard/read about this (for instance here, here, or here), but I'll give you a quick summary: The photo shown above -- which features the Spanish men's national basketball team yanking their peepers into a slant-eyed gesture -- ran on the front page of Marca, a Spanish daily sports newspaper with readership of over 2,300,000. It was, apparently, intended as a "good luck" advertisement for Seur, a Spanish courier company.

Not surprisingly, there has been both uproar and condemnation of the picture.

This might be the worst anti-Chinese racist moment since David Carradine was cast as Kwai Chang Caine in the old Kung Fu television series. (For the record, it should have been Bruce Lee...but that's a long and complicated story.) Pretty much everybody involved in this mess showed a shocking lack of, ahem, vision. Mind you, I've never been to Spain and I know very little of Spanish culture, other than that they love them some tomato fights. Maybe the concepts of "racial sensitivity" and "political correctness" have not reached them. But still, you'd think a country with a national motto like "Further Beyond" would be further beyond something like this. Or, at the very least, that they'd be smart enough to avoid it.

One of the Spanish players involved, Jose Calderon, blames the media. "We did it because we thought it was going to be something nice, something with no problem. 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." Uh...something nice? Seriously? No way, Jose. It's hard to believe this is the same guy who gave up his starting job to T.J. Ford for the betterment of the team last season.

The Spanish team's coach, one Aíto García Reneses, likened the gesture to making fun of tall people. No, really. Said Reneses: "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. I can't understand anything more." It sure was nice of Spain to let a space alien coach their national team only days after he arrived on Earth. But they probably should have waited until he learned more of our customs.

Pau Gasol, best known for being one of the evil Lakers, really didn't want to do it, did it anyway, doesn't think it was offensive, but is very sorry that mocking a billion people upset some people. "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. 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. I didn't find it very funny. I didn't find it offensive, either. I guess some guys didn't mind. To me I don't want to be that way, I guess, to be doing that stuff. If anybody feels offended by it we totally apologize for it. We never meant anything offensive by it."

Okay. Sure. I wonder what they would have done if the Olympics had been held in Africa. Put all the players in blackface maybe? Hey, it's all in good fun!

Honestly, I don't think the Spaniards meant any offense, either. But, man, it sure was stupid, wasn't it? I try to remain almost completely ignorant of foreign relations, but even I know that the Chinese people (or, perhaps more accurately, the Chinese government) are a bit touchy about how they're regarded around the world. Heck, they wouldn't even show the little girl who sang their anthem at the opening ceremonies because she's too ugly.

Oh well. I'm just glad that if there had to be a bunch of thoughtless, insensitive foreign bastards, it wasn't us for a change.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
personally speaking I don't care (even though I'm chinese)

the only place I don't wanna see it is with kids.

lemme ask is it offensive to put glasses over you head using your hands? calling people four-eyes? pimple? freckles? etc etc.? because if you did it it's the samething in my opinion

making fun of someone or a group of people with a distinct feature should always be treated with same outcry.

Blogger DeWoof said...
Basketbawful, Spain has a history pulling out some semi racist remarks and actions. I don't find anything racist really in the picture at least not enough to have all the media pub about. Here an article about a Formula 1 testing session earlier in the year in spain. Spainish people hate Lewis Hamilton, a black driver, because he caused problems for spains most popular driver fernando alonso. Here was there reaction...

Blogger Basketbawful said...
shrugz -- Hm. I don't know if I would equate imitating someone with glasses to imitating an entire race. Mind you, I think the issue is indeed overblown...and I don't think there was any real harm being done. I'm only pointing out that it was a bonehead move and they really should have known better. It's kind of like how you don't randomly scream "SHARK!" on a public beach for a lark. Sure, it might not cause any harm, but why piss people off for no good reason?

brent -- Like I alluded to in the post, it's not so much that the picture is all that offensive, it's that many of the people being characterized by the gesture were almost certain to feel slighted. I mean, most moderately educated people are aware of China's cultural sensitivity, right?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
By itself it's not the worst thing in the world, but since China is hosting the games, the stupidity levels of doing that picture is multiplied many times. And the Olympics are supposed to be about breaking down cultural/ethnic barriers...when it comes time for Spain to try and bid to host the games, people will bring this up and it will probably hurt their chances of hosting.

Blogger umpeik said...
In some countries, the concept of "political correctness" is an alien term. Its different in the US where people of all different race live together.

When they make these kinds of gestures in their country, there isn't enough people to complain about it so they never learn that its offensive.

For example, in many asian countries (and in tropic thunder), black face is not looked as a racist gesture. Its just thought of as someone disguising themselves as a black person. Nothing more. They don't know the historical context for black face, and there's not enough black people there to say "hey that's offensive."

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Totally agree with what umpeik says. So much so I'll quote him:

"For example, in many asian countries (and in tropic thunder), black face is not looked as a racist gesture. Its just thought of as someone disguising themselves as a black person. Nothing more. They don't know the historical context for black face, and there's not enough black people there to say "hey that's offensive."

I'll also add that the outcry seems to have come exclusively from the American/British press.

Of all the stories I read on this, the only people I read quoted as feeling offended by the picture were an Asian-American organization. The Chinese themselves seem to be OK with this.

We have such a difficult history in this country with race relations that we tend to be hiper-sensitive on anything to do with race. I think outside the English speaking world this picture thing is no biggie.

Having said that, I do think the picture is stupid. It'd be as if, say, the Chinese team dressing up in matador capes if they were playing in Spain. But, like B-Bawful wrote, I don't see any intention to offend from the Spaniards either.

Blogger Unknown said...
I think this photo aim was more of identifying with a hosting country than a racist attitude.
P.D: Please don´t let American NBA fans(such a politically correct people) wear fake Pau´s beard enymore, he could get angry...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I don't find that offensive at all. People complaining about it just remind me of the people who were bashing the nike ad saying it was homophobic...
People are too sensitive nowadays.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The players and all involved had no malicious intent, I fully believe that. People are hyper sensitive but the pic is childish and stupid like Pau said, and it shouldn't have been done. As was noted above there just aren't enough "others" in many countries for the populous to be racially sensitive. The US has so many different types of people and has made most mistakes you can make with each group, so we learn.

With all that said, this black guy probably won't be going to Spain considering the various instances of racism against black soccer players and the F-1 driver in the post from brent. But I have no beef with them, I just won't visit.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I find it funny that "The Spoiler" commented on the photo by saying it was a subtle way for the Spaniards to offend their hosts.

...The whole team standing there making so called "slant-eyed gestures" . . . reeeal subtle.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I'm pretty surprised to hear playing on racial stereotypes/traits compared to making fun of somebody with glasses, or a beard. Blackface would be OK? What about watermelon and fried chicken? Hey, it's all cool. Don't be so thin-skinned!

It actually didn't bother so much, except that I found it profoundly STUPID. I mean, was anybody involved in this thinking at all? There's no need to walk on eggshells, true (see the Nike ad), but big racial stereotypes is generally a no-win, right?

I don't blame any of the players. Heck, any NBA fan knows these guys do what you tell them as long as they get their next check. But coaches? Advertising types? Bueller?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Hahaha, wow, I can't believe the commentary on here. You're kidding me right? That's "Breakfast at Tiffany's" offensive.


Anonymous Anonymous said...
We can relate this subject with that Nike "balls on the face" ad. Its all about what can offend and what should offend.

After all, I think its just plain stupid to feel offended by this picture. Its clearly a joke, even though the Spanish arent very empathetic.

Its not like they are mocking a kind of desability or something. Its just a racial trace and I dont see any reason to look at it as offensive.

Of course this pic is silly, mostly because the Spanish team look like a bunch of geeks. If it was LeBron and D-Wade, people might laugh at it (even though I dont think the Americans would do that, not because of the race issue, but because of all the historical animosity).

Well... I am from Brazil and I wouldnt be offended if they were about to play against us and take a picture with the whole team naked.

Yes, its true. We walk around naked over here.

Blogger m. Alana said...
I only had one reaction to this.


I hope I can forgive Ricky Rubio for this. Oh, Ricky Rubio...

Blogger Shrugz said...
Well yea of course LOL

no reason to do it even if there was pressure (Pau Gasol)

well if they didn't see this coming at the BEJING,china Olympics they're pretty stupid for doing that

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Pau Gasol in blackface would look exactly like a starving African. And I bet the Spanish team would probably use the AIDS song from Team America as their official music if the Olympics were in Africa.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
It makes me sad that people are having such a hard time seeing the negative connotations in this.

Baguete - there is no way you can compare this to the hyperdunk ad. You say its clearly a joke, but I honestly have a hard time seeing anything funny or in good spirits about this.

Racism is always a much more complicated issue than you would think and oftentimes unless youve been the recipient of certain "jokes". You don't understand how they can be hurtful.

I grew up in America and my very first memories I have of someone reminding me I looked different than everyone else were in kindergarten when another boy would chase me around making his eyes squinty and making "ching chong" noises. I remember trying to run away from him at first but he just kept following, then I got mad and tried chasing him down but he was faster. I ended up telling the teachers and they made him stop but as a 6 year old I remember spending the rest of the day on the verge of crying. It should also be noted that this was not the last time I was made fun of through this method. I'm not going to lie and say i've endured a tremendous about of racism in my lifetime but with that said; there's a good chance that I can't really see anything remotely funny about that picture

The problem with doing the eye thing is what it represents. The difference between walking around naked, liking fried chicken is that those are stereotypes while the asian eyes is something all asians are born with and will have until they die, there is no choice involved. I guarantee that almost any asian-american at one point or another has been made fun of at one point or another in this fashion under a negative connotation.

If they had taken the picture wearing rice hats, I probably would have laughed and thought it was effin awesome. If they had taken the picture dressed up kung fu style that probably would have been funny too. But instead of picking something associated with asian culture they chose to pick something that is generally only used to remind asians that they're different.

Of all the stories I read on this, the only people I read quoted as feeling offended by the picture were an Asian-American organization. The Chinese themselves seem to be OK with this.

Don Paco - "Of all the stories I read on this, the only people I read quoted as feeling offended by the picture were an Asian-American organization. The Chinese themselves seem to be OK with this. We have such a difficult history in this country with race relations that we tend to be hiper-sensitive on anything to do with race. I think outside the English speaking world this picture thing is no biggie."

I agree that we tend to be hyper sensitive about anything race in America but thats the problem and thats why saying that this is no big deal is a not a positive step towards understanding. With racism involving black people it gets blown out of proportion to the point that it becomes more about the punishment and the person saying it than the people targeted. The asian-american community on the other hand has the opposite problem and that is that issues involving racism against asians is shrugged off. The truth is this was offensive. This was truly and genuinely offensive. Did I freak out and feel crushed by hundreds of years of oppression? No, not really, but I did feel a small twinge of sadness and this indescribable feeling that one can only feel through personal experience. I'm not saddened so much by they did that but rather than at how people still can't see that its racist. Did the kids that made fun of me by doing this know how it made me feel? Probably not, in fact they probably viewed it through the same lense as everyone one of you that think asians aren't really bugged by this and therein lies the problem.

More than anything i'm irritated by the failure by asians to actually stand up against this. The Chinese appear to be ok with it because when racism against asians happens people expect them to have this "oh its ok...don't mind us, we just want to fit in" attitude. This is why when Shaq made fun of Yao Ming he said he understood it to be a joke and wasn't offended by it, because everyone expected that "polite, nonconfrontational" asian persona, when in reality he should've blasted him and said, "what the fuck were you thinking, if someone were to ask me if I had any words for you I wouldn't say "yo, yo bling bling, wassup my nigga, i'm gon bring some fried chicken fo yo bitchass to eat while you watch me from the bench. Why? Becuase that would be racist you ignorant fuck."

No, instead he has to be polite because he represents China and can't afford to give anything but the politically appropriate response.

The truth is, asians simply don't tend to speak up against racism against their own. Their community is too busy trying to fit in with western culture to stand up against it. So as a result you have racism swept under the carpet and South Korea issues apologies as a country for Virginia Tech.

shrugz - you say you don't care but then you say that you just dont want to see it with the kids. Well, by saying you "don't care" you send the message to people that hey a chinese person doesn't care and then people see it as harmless. Just remember that when your kid gets made fun of for being asian that you can't be mad at the kids doing it, only yourself for allowing them to think its no big deal.

Like I said, if they had taken the picture in rice hats, it would probably have made Spain my new favorite Olympic team but poor judgement caused it to be something else, creating a landslide; where Spain won't admit its racist, extremists will look to the NBA for punishment, the white majority will think to themselves it was just a harmless poorly chosen joke, and the asian community will fail to educate people as to why this is racist leaving noone to blame but themselves.

To anyone that actually read through all of that, whether you agree or don't I appreciate it. I know I ranted a bit and could have condensed some of it but in that same breath I could have even more easily made it longer.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Forgot my closing thought.

I'm not saying that asians need to freak out and go call into radio stations, or blog books about it to stand up against it, extremism isn't the way.

All they need to do is calmly say a simple, "Yeah, actually that is kinda racist. I used to get made fun of as a kid with that. I didn't really like it." so then, people will know.

But then again, sometimes the easiest or best solution isn't always the most obvious.

Blogger Jeffrey Hardy Quah said...
I don't know what annoys me more, that this photo exists, or that people are actually defending it by ignoring the racist implications.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
i agree this is taken way too seriously. On the other hand, this wouldn't have happened if Spain wasn't so damn stupid.
I see little correlation between this and the nike ads. I've said this before, Nike is weak, they shouldn't have let the minority whiners foil what would have been a pretty decent advertisement campaign. They were not stupid to think that it was a good idea. Homosexuals have very little to do with what Nike is trying to do.
This, however, is slighty different, because China is actually hosting the Olympics. So during the next Olympics held in London, maybe we should all wear dorky glasses and fake buck teeth? What about games held in America? Fake beerbellies, cheeseburgers in one hand and a weapon in the other? Again, it would be funny/amusing, but why the hell would you even do that in today's world?
I have no idea whether Spain, deep down, wished to portray some racist thoughts. In fact, I don't care if it was intentional or not it was just stupid. But in Spain's defense, they really don't have a clue, really. They'll straight up say to a foreigner, "I don't like azn ppl" or "I don't like to be near black ppl."
That's just the way they are, whether that is racism that needs to be addressed, I cannot say, since I have no further knowledge about Spain and their racial discrepancies. Being half asian, I find it kind of refreshing in a sense. Brutal honesty is much more welcome than subtle hints of controlled hate towards a different race in my experience.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
gotta love the brazil comment lol. But yea thats something to be proud of I guess? While chinese ppl having slanty eyes is viewed as derogatory, degrading, etc etc. chinese ppl are definitely hyper sensitive, but c'mon guys making fun of their eye shape isn't cool, you wouldn't understand unless you actually experienced it yourselves. Everyone talks about how black ppl, asian ppl are so sensitive but uh i mean they actually experience that kind of racist crap all their lives, sure they might get paranoid about it at times but some ppl ignorant ppl out there truly attempt to put down other groups of different color.

on the other hand, brazilians walking around naked is awesome so I can't see why anyone would find it as offensive as ppl making fun of slitty eyes.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
i dont find it offensive. stupid yes; offensive, not much.

im just wondering why most of the reports are from UK based sites (so far anyway). i mean, i know that the London 2012 organizers are next and were shaking in their boots watching the opening ceremonies on how follow in the world are they gonna follow up this spectacle but.. im not sayin.. im just sayin.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Hey, a severe thin skin case in here, isn't it? I wonder if it has nothing to do with the 2016 Olimpics Chicago vs Madrid rivalry...

Anyway, I'm from Madrid, Spain, and sure, we are all racist. The most racist people you have never seen. See, we are all mediterranean blonde, tall, blue eyed people.
And for sure, the chinese people is our favourite victim,. In fact, we are all the time abusing some of the million chinese people that live around. We reclude them in ghettos and call them "china town". And of course, we support the feudal Nepal system, because the chinese are comunists and true evil.
We have also exterminated the spanish orignal natives.
And in our cities, black people couldn't get into our bars, sit in our buses, or marry our women.
Are we evil enough?

Hey, do you want to know something funny? none of this have happened in Spain, but they have indeed happened in other country (one wich starts with U and ends with SA).
But, sure, we are racists because the idiots of Seur and Marca payed the idiots of our basket team for doing the clown.

And last, but not least, Spanish team is going to beat your basket team AGAIN, and after, they are going to put themselves a cowboy hat and shout "yeeha!". Talk about politic correction!

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Basketbawful probably talks shit about Kobe in his sleep.

I remember when he wrote something about Kobe in the first round of the playoffs against Denver. Kobe showed a lot of emotion and popping his jersey, and basketbawful actually found a way to take a jab at Kobe for: Celebrating wayyy too much, because after all, it was only the first round, and the Lakers were a 1 seed playing an 8.

I'm sorry basketbawful, but you never mentioned anything about KG pounding his chest like an idiot and bunching the basketball post after beating the sorry timberwolves. I remember in game 2 against the hawks, KG was pounding his chest and slapping his head celebrating a win. Celtics were a 1 seed facing an 8, and basketbawful failed to take the same jab at Kevin Garnett that he did towards Kobe. Which shows bias and playing favorites with his Celtics.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
guys, please get your facts about spanish history right.

sure, america has "historical animosities".
but spain conquered south america. the continent.

ontopic: the picture is stupid, but harmless.

Blogger Shiv said...
a). I'm moving to Brazil.

b). While I don't think the gestures were overtly meant to be racist or offensive, the problem with racism and general un-PC offensiveness is that it arises from ignorance. And the Spaniards seem to be just plain ign'ant.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
joseph -- Do you know what I really, really like, other than Sour Patch Kid candies? People who trying to talk trash to me without knowing what they're talking about. You are now one of those people.

Click this link, wise guy. You'll notice the following entry: "Kevin Garnett (versus his old team): He returned from an abdominal strain and made a big defensive play in the final seconds -- stealing the ball from Sebastian Telfair -- to preserve the C's 1-point victory. It was a great moment for him, but he pissed all over it by acting the fool, pulling up his jersey and pointing vigorously at the 'Celtics' name, letting everyone know that he is, in fact, a member of the Celtics. I guess he was taking a shot at his former team, who cruelly abused Garnett with consecutive $100-million contracts."

Do me a favor, huh? If you're going to try to talk smack to me, at least do a little research first. That would be great.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"I didn't find it very funny. I didn't find it offensive, either."
That's the question.
This picture might be stupid, but WE have nothing against chinese people.
It´s like you go to Spain and try to mimic our traditions: it would be stupid, a bit senseless, I´ll have some laughs, and that´s all.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
mydougie, you summed up everything I felt when reading through these comments. Yes, this picture was offensive. AND it was stupid. I really don't appreciate everyone saying that it wasn't offensive, just stupid. And really, all I want is this racist act to be acknowledged. Stop making excuses and call it what it is, a racist gesture.

It's ironic that an ESPN article claims that the IOC has let this matter go because the Spanish national team "didn't mean to offend" and that an "apology has been issued". Well, an apology really doesn't help your case when you continue to publish and run the advertisements in question. (

Anyway, if anyone really wants to know the issues from a majority of Asian-American's perspective read mydougie's comments.

BTW, love your blog Basketbawful.

Blogger Jeffrey Hardy Quah said...
Tomás: Nooo, none of this ever happened in Spain. Other than calling black soccer players "monkeys" or wearing blackface to taunt Lewis Hamilton at the F1. But other than that, nope, no racism in Spanish sports.

Blogger BJ said...
Ugh. Head, meet desk. I understand you two are quite close.

Political correctness gets taken to absurd, logic-bending lengths -- but is it really such an evil idea to think before you do something and consider whether or not it'll make you look like a bigoted a--hole?

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
mg: Yea, having slanted eyes is "tradition". Nice call.

It looks like their intention wasn't malicious, but they should have actually picked something from the CULTURE of China for a photo, such as the aforementioned hats or kung-fu getup. That would have been more tasteful and funny.

Instead they picked the gesture that, in all my experience, almost NEVER has a neutral meaning. Deny it all you want, this is just how America is. Whenever that gesture is made, there's ALWAYS some level of harm, even when it's mostly shrouded in low-brow humor.

No need for me to go into detail about growing up as an Asian-American, mydougie covered most of the points. Yes, many schoolchildren made that gesture to me and called me "chink" and had no idea what a "Korea" was, even though their own grandparents were in that war saving South Korea's ass.

But lets just say that those schoolchildren who are first or third parties learn it from somewhere, and when they grow up they have the choice of denying it or fighting against it. Which is why I think that the perception is Americans are over-sensitive, because it was there when they were growing up, and they thought it was wrong, and now feel like saying so (or fighting the guilt).

I don't know how racist Spain really is, but at the very least they missed the logical step of making an international gesture without considering international implications. That is why this is stupid.

The only way you could find this non-offensive as an American, is if you've never actually seen it happen in a directly hurtful way as a first or third party, and I think you're in the minority if you fit that scenario.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Its the most racist country on planet. They just dont get it.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Anacondahl, I never said "having slanted eyes is "tradition" ". That´s so stupid.
If I said tradition, it´s because tourists can "mimic" our traditions. Can they mimic our physical characteristics? Sure, but I never see one.

And the anonymous who said "Its the most racist country on planet", I hope he´s not talking about Spain, because in this case he´s wrong.
For example: when spanish basket team won the Príncipe de Asturias Prize, they donated the money, 50000 €, to UNICEF, maybe because Gasol is a UNICEF ambassador. Calderón also is in the "Right To Play" organization.
They are only some examples in basketball. Even the brand of the basket team is a chinese brand xD

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Yes, you did.

"It´s like you go to Spain and try to mimic our traditions"

Actually, it's nothing like that. And being part of UNICEF, Right to Play, or using a Chinese brand aren't examples of not being racist. I can be as racist as I want against Chinese people but eating Chinese food every day doesn't prove I'm not racist.

"Can they mimic our physical characteristics? Sure, but I never see one."

Good work on Spain defense there. That's some nice thinking outside of the box.

And it gets much worse than Spain, they are in no way the most racist country in the world. How about countries that discriminate both by race and social class? Hell, even in Korea being half-black half-Korean is enough to deny you service at a restaurant (which is why the work Hines Ward is doing is very inspirational).

Although after reading some of these comments from Spain defenders, I have to wonder if my trip to Barcelona, which was racist-free, was actually an anomaly...

Blogger Chris said...
How is this racist? You're a wordsmith - racism is the belief that one race is superior to another.

You were more correct later on - "insensitive" and ignorant. Stereotyping fits the bill, too.

Is it any different than dudes on the court making gay jokes?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
OK then. I only want to show a few examples.

It´s like see a photo and judge a country.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I was just angry because I think you take a lot of shots at Kobe, and he is on my team.

I was wrong for saying that you show bias. But I still think you hate Kobe Bryant.