Spanish basketball star offers apology for offensive photo

Spain's leading basketball player Pau Gasol apologised on behalf of his team on Wednesday after widespread criticism of slit-eyed gestures by the world champions at the Beijing Olympics.

The photo, which has been running as a newspaper spread in Spain since Friday, shows the 15 players of the Spanish men's basketball squad dressed in Olympic kit making the gesture on a basketball court adorned with a Chinese dragon. All the players are pulling the skin back at the side of their eyes. The photo was part of a publicity campaign for team sponsor Seur, a Spanish courier company, and is being used only in Spain.

The Spanish women's basketball team also posed for photo doing the same thing, and four members of Argentina's women's Olympic football team were shown making similar faces in a photograph published last week.

Pau Gasol, who plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, told the New York Times that, at the time, some of the players had felt uncomfortable shooting the advertisement for sponsors Seur, a Spanish courier company. Seur was unavailable for comment.

"To me it was little clownish for our part to be doing that. The sponsor insisted and insisted. They pushed because they're the people that pay the money. It was just a bad idea to do that. It was never intended to be offensive or racist against anybody," the New York Times quoted him as saying on its website.

"If anyone feels offended by it, we totally apologise for it."

However the coach of the Spanish men's team, Aito Garcia Reneses, did not apologise for the picture and said the intention was a joke and not offensive.

Gasol's team mate Jose Calderon said the gestures had not been racist.

"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," Calderon, who plays for Canada's NBA Toronto Raptors team, said in a message posted on his website ( http://www.josemanuelcalderon.com ).

"Whoever interprets something else from the photos has taken it completely the wrong way," he added.

"This was clearly inappropriate, but we understand the Spanish team intended no offence and has apologised," Emmanuelle Moreau, a spokeswoman for the International Olympic Committee, said in an e-mail. "The matter rests there as far as the IOC is concerned."

The Spanish basketball federation declined to comment. "The players explained what happened," Villanueva said. "We think that's enough."

A Seur official in Madrid said the company had not intended to offend the Chinese people, but has no immediate plans to withdraw the ad, which is scheduled to run on selected days until the end of the games.

Seur has not received any formal protest or complaint from Chinese authorities, the official said on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak publicly about the situation.

Spanish newspapers also rejected suggestions that the pictures were racist, saying the team had donated money to charities helping the poor in Africa.

"To try and convert an affectionate gesture of a model group of sportsmen and women into racism is repugnant," said Jose Luis Martinez, columnist for the Marca sports newspaper in which the pictures first appeared.

World champions Spain have attempted to put the controversy behind them and have won their first three games of the competition. Last night they defeated Germany 72-59, while on Tuesday they beat China 85-75 desptie consistently getting booed throughout the game.

Meanwhile condemnation of the incident in Pau Gasol's adopted home of Los Angeles has been unanimous.

"The sheer stupidity of the Spanish team photo does make me just shake my head," said one contributor to the LA Times' Lakers blog. "Being Asian and seeing this however, I do want to shake my fist."

Suggested Topics
News
Jeremy Clarkson
people
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own