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Basketball

Spanish team draws criticism for photo

Members of Spain's men's basketball team say their controversial team photo was not intended to be racist. Members of Spain's men's basketball team say their controversial team photo was not intended to be racist. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
August 14, 2008
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BEIJING - Players on Spain's Olympic basketball team defended a photo in an ad showing the players using their fingers to apparently make their eyes look more Chinese.

The photo, which has been running as a newspaper spread in Spain since Friday, shows all 15 players making the gesture on a basketball court adorned with a Chinese dragon. The photo was part of a publicity campaign for team sponsor Seur, a Spanish courier company, and is being used only in Spain.

"It was something like supposed to be funny or something but never offensive in any way," said Spain center Pau Gasol, who also plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. "I'm sorry if anybody thought or took it the wrong way and thought that it was offensive."

Point guard Jose Calderon said the team was responding to a request from the photographer.

"We felt it was something appropriate, and that it would be interpreted as an affectionate gesture," Calderon, who plays for NBA's Toronto Raptors, wrote on his ElMundo.es blog. "Without a doubt, some . . . press didn't see it that way."

International media criticized the photo. London's Daily Telegraph said Spain's "poor reputation for insensitivity toward racial issues has been further harmed" by the photo.

The OCA, an organization representing Asian-Pacific Americans, said it found the photo disturbing. "It is unfortunate that this type of imagery would rear it's head at a time that is supposed to be about world unity," said George Wu, the group's deputy director.

The Spanish women's basketball team also posed for a photo doing the same thing.

Gasol said it was "absurd" people were calling the gesture racist. "We never intended anything like that."

The Spanish basketball federation declined to comment yesterday.

"The players explained what happened," said Juan Antonio Villanueva, the communications director for Madrid's 2016 Olympic bid. "We think that's enough." (AP)

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