Slanty Eyes Finally Making its Way onto the Olympics Scene

August 12, 2008

I don't get it. What is this ad supposed to convey? Good will to the Chinese people?  Hey, we get you. We're your friends!

No apologies have been issued yet but that better change, soon.

According to the Guardian UK:

The advert features two large photographs, one of the men's
basketball team, above, and one of the women's team. Both squads pose
in full Olympic kit on a basketball court decorated with a picture of a
Chinese dragon. Every single player appears pulling back the skin on
either side of their eyes. The advert carries the symbol of the sport's
governing body.

No one involved in the advert appears to have considered it
inappropriate nor contemplated the manner in which it could be
interpreted in China and elsewhere. No offence was intended by the
advert, but whether the Chinese see it that way is a different matter
and it is likely to provoke more criticism at a delicate time for
Spanish sport. The failure to recognise the potential consequences is
striking in the light of the problems Spain has had with issues of race
and the Spanish Olympic committee's continued desire to host the Games
in Madrid in 2016 or 2020.

Spain has been criticized of its lack of sensitivity when it comes to racial issues, and I am sad to say that things haven't gotten better in 2008.

Regardless of whether or not the Chinese people will feel offended, I am disgusted by this low-class thing of an ad and I think anyone with common sense should feel offended too!
The team members might as well have all worn a conical straw hat. Is
this what people in Spain believe to be humorous and worst, marketable? Ergh.

UPDATE 08/13/2008: Here's a link to the team's reaction and so-called apologies (thanks Harry).

UPDATE 08/15/2008: Thought-provoking commentaries from by Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports and big ups to Los Angeles Times for taking a stand.

Lisa Lee


Lisa Lee works in User Operations at Facebook, and has more than five years of nonprofit experience in marketing and communications for multicultural arts and cultural organizations.



If you find this not offensive, then you are delusional. I'm sure what they did to Lewis Hamilton, Samuel Eto'o, and Marco Zoro was not big deal right? They are being too sensitive? Get real, that's racist and they know it.
i particularly agree with this reader's comment on the los angeles time piece:"As an asian, let me just say this.As a child, I was teased quite often by white and black children who would pull their eyes back in this fashion. They did this to make me feel inferior for not looking like them. For me, there is meaning behind the gesture. I'm not ashamed of my slanted eyes as some have suggested. But there is a historical reference here.For those of you who cannot understand why this is offensive, can you at least put yourself in my shoes for a second? I'm mature enough to not get upset over this, but I don't want my children to have to go through the same thing."- david
In response to Majority Cruel, I get what you're saying with "The King of the Hill" comment but I think that kind of show, like "Boondocks", uses a cultural sect in America as a background to point out societal and political concerns in our country. King of the Hill is funny but it's ultimately about poor white people who lack education, which is a commentary on the inequality between economic classes in America.What is pulling your eyes back to make it seem like you're "Chinaman" trying to express? You don't go to another country and pose in pictures that say, "Hey look how funny these foreign people look!" Isn't strange and weird!?!"I think I would be offended if any country was posing pictures mocking another ethnicity, period.
Wow, 4 of Spains players play in the NBA, Pau Gasol being one of them. I hope they do not condone this act. This should be brought up to Howard Stern, any Spainish player that plays in the NBA and participated in this photo should be penalized. Howard Stern knows that the NBA cannot survuve without the Chinese viewers. 1 billion people watched the U. S. and Chinese game, if Asian complain the NBA WILL LISTEN.
Who cares? Maybe they didn't think it was offensive because it's not! People here are too sensitive and too scared of hurting people's feelings or stepping on any toes. Give me a break.
i would hardly call this act "stepping on any toes" and the reason why i am criticizing this ad is not because i think it would hurt someone's feelings. i just think this is the stupidest thing i have ever seen. if you're photographing a bunch of kids, fine. but these are grown ass men, all which plays for such diverse audience. as relax said, 4 which plays for the nba! they should know better. and might i mention that this ad is just pure shitty, because it lacks any originality and for who cares, obviously if i blogged about it, i care.
LisaleeIf this slides and goes unnoticed, the message the world will get is thats its ok to degrade. This not the message the world should get. The Chinese guard WU, was just drafted by the LA LAKERS, guess who is the LAKERS CENTER. Your truly PAU GASOL, im sure there will be tension between the two
Here's reaction from Spanish team.Most of them don't understand why it was offensive.
can these people be anymore inarticulate? i don't understand anything that was said in the article.i am so sick of people apologizing for people that did feel offended, but not apologizing for the act itself. can we ever just get a simple apology without the buts and the ifs?and please, imitating someone who is "tall" is not the same as pulling your eyes back. it simply reveals that the head coach really believes asian people to be all slanty eyed. what a joke.
Here's a link to an AP story as well where Gasol says "It was something like supposed to be funny or something but never offensive in any way." and also states that "Gasol said it was "absurd" people were calling the gesture racist".
What's troubling to me is that Spain's track record with racist sports incidents isn't exactly stellar (particularly incidences of using racial slurs against Black athletes) and that the same excuse is used each time: "I don't know why you think this is offensive. It has nothing to do with race."They're essentially trying to say the media and various organizations are making racism up or are too politically correct. Like as long as they feign ignorance, they can say whatever they want. It's a cop-out.
Some of the rationalizations from the Spanish basketball team are priceless in their stupidity.Jose Calderon explained that the team thought the slanty eyes thing would be "interpreted as an affectionate gesture."He also offers up the standard "Some of my best friends are fill-in-the-blank race" alibi: "I want to express that we have great respect for the Orient and its people, some of my best friends in Toronto are of Chinese origin."Let's just say the the Spanish sports establishment makes Don Imus seem like Mr. Racial Sensitivity in comparison---given that this is only the latest in a long series of "racial incidents" by Spain.
i completely agree with sylvie. obviously, these people are more into blaming the media for "blowing things out of proportion" and have no desire of wanting to educate themselves. once, maybe, but more than once, no.
don't Chinese, and most East Asian, people have Slanted eyes anyway? Why is it racist to point this out?
Good point, Let's think! All these people are overreacting. Next time you find yourself in Harlem or South Central, how about walk around wearing blackface? Harmless!Please do it.
Yeah, do it, see what happens
This article not only demonstrates Spain's lack of cultural sensitivity, it also demonstrates two things: (1) that U.S. is much more politically correct by comparison, and (2) that Asian Americans cannot remain a group that people can just make fun of without consequences. There is no other meaning besides the playground taunt that the Spanish basketball team members exhibited above than to degrade and disparage, poor taste or otherwise. To let this behavior go unnoticed is to acknowledge that such behavior is permissible. There is a reason why Imus got fired when he made the unflattering reference to African Americans. Asian Americans need to do the same so we can send the message that something as "classic" as "me-so-horny," "ching ching ching ching ching," and the slanted eye gesture may be "fine" in the fifties (presumably because the colored folks didn't have the means to speak), they are no longer tolerated.
It always seems like it's "ok" to poke fun at the majority. For example, isn't the entire premise of the show, "King of the Hill", based on making fun of White America?In the case of making fun of the Chinese in China... THEY are the majority! Maybe we're only oversensitive because Asians are given "minority treatment" in America.Does anyone know what actual Chinese people think of this incident? Are we as Asian minorities in American just taking our chip-on-shoulder minority woes and pushing them on the rest of the world? Does no one find this ironic besides me?
I'd be willing to bet that a lot of Chinese people don't think much of it. But they live in a mostly mono-ethnic culture where they are insulated from global racism. Annoyingly, the Chinese government has brushed it aside as a miscommunication between cultures.What the Chinese people think or don't think though is not an excuse for what the Spanish team and the ad people did.
Simply put, racial caricatures perpetuate negative stereotypes. It's demeaning, immature, and hardly funny.With respects to poking fun at the majority, well, historically speaking, most forms of racist caricatures stem from a period in time when people of color were vulnerable and the target of political and legislative abuse. The blackface, the savage Indian, and the opium-addicted Chinamen just to name a few, helped to solidify this faulty and ignorant perception of these people to dehumanize and rob them of the chance to live under the equal protection of the law that white men enjoyed.
thanks oca and c-100 for speaking out and check out some of the reactions from blogs that racialicious - - has compiled***Press ReleaseOCA & C-100 Find Spanish Olympics Basketball Team's Photo OffensiveWashington, DC & New York, NY – OCA and the Committee of 100, two national organizations serving the Asian Pacific American and Chinese American community, join forces to speak out against the Spanish men's Olympics basketball team's slanted eye photo."The photograph is offensive to people of Asian and Chinese descent. It was a poor decision for these professional athletes to make this historically denigrating gesture and it was a poorer decision for the team sponsor and the Spanish paper to put it in print," said OCA National President Ginny Gong. "And it is disturbing that neither the Olympic athletes nor their sponsors have adequately apologized for their decisions."Despite a worldwide uproar over the image, Spanish basketball player Jose' Manuel Calderon, who plays for the NBA's Toronto Raptors, stated that the photograph and the gesture were "something appropriate and that it would always be interpreted as somewhat loving.""Even if this image was produced without any ill will, its effects are still damaging," said C-100 Chairman General John L. Fugh (U.S. Army – Ret.). "It affects individuals of Chinese descent, as well as others of Asian descent who also have experienced the same mockery, and it also affects the relationships among communities and nations."George C. Wu, OCA's Deputy Director added: "as Asian Pacific Americans support the U.S. Olympic athletes, many of whom are Asian Pacific Americans, it is disturbing to OCA that Spain's basketball team would introduce such offensive and divisive imagery into the Olympics. Highly regarded NBA players like Pau Gasol and Calderon need to also understand that these gestures are often associated with bullying and taunting in schools and are harmful to the communities that support their teams."OCA and C-100 will continue to monitor both the actions of the participants in the Olympics and the media coverage of the Olympics to ensure that this type of imagery or rhetoric does not negatively impact race relations in the United States.