Spain’s Olympic Basketball Team Honors China with a “Wink”

by Latoya Peterson

Stay classy, Team Spain.

From the Guardian:

Spain’s Olympic basketball teams have risked upsetting their Chinese hosts by posing for a pre-Games advert making slit-eyed gestures. The advert for a courier company, which is an official sponsor of the Spanish Basketball Federation, occupied a full page in the sports daily Marca, the country’s best-selling newspaper.

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.

According to other reports, they were asked to wink for the sponsor:

Jose Manuel Calderon, an icon of the national team, explains in his blog at that it was a wink from the sponsor, something they thought appropriate and affectionate. He is blunt: “Whoever wants to interpret something different is totally confused.”

“It turns out that in the photo shoot for the submission of our team, one of our sponsors asked us to make, as a ‘wink’ to our participation in Beijing, an expression of Eastern eyes — we felt it was something appropriate and that it would always be interpreted as an affectionate gesture,” Calderon says. “However, some European media have not looked on it well,” laments the linchpin of the national team.

Calderon denies any racist tinge in the gesture and expressed his “great respect for the East and its people.” The Extremaduran highlighted his great personal relationship with several Chinese friends by his team in the NBA, Toronto Raptors, and recalled that the sports brand Li Ning China outfits the Spanish team as one of its sponsors.

[The original article is in Spanish, here.]

Angry Asian Man says:

“Irresponsible” would be one way to put it… but to me, it just looks racist. Oh look, Spain’s basketball team is headed to Beijing for the Olympics. What better way to mark the occasion than posing for a photo with the entire team making an offensive racist gesture? We honor you, China, with our chinky eyes.

And Slant Eye for the Round Eye discovers that one of the players has gone on record saying that he doesn’t understand why people think this is racist. So he decided to write a little letter:

Dear Pau:

While I was going to just let this drop after my last post, I can’t help but not write you a little something after I read in the Sporting News that you thought it was “absurd” people were calling the gesture racist you and the Spanish basketball team posed for, and that it was really just supposed to be “funny”.

I mean I know you’re soft (we all do now after seeing you play in the Finals), but to be honest, I really didn’t think that extended to brain tissue, and even though I know what you meant by funny – a bunch of white guys making fun of us chinky bastards – I’m still a little confused on the “absurd” comment. […]

Hyphen says:

Oh hellz no! What are we, 5 years old running around on a playground taunting each other with childish nursery rhymes?

Disgrasian notes:

And this is after Madrid asked China last week to support its bid for the 2016 Games. Holy Slit! Is that what Spain considers a goodwill gesture?


I am not going anywhere else to look this up. I am not dealing with the comments because, obviously, this is so not racist and we take everything too seriously. (That’s a real comment on the *Hyphen* blog.) I am not looking at the MSM. Not. gonna.

(Thanks to Highjive and Alice for the tips.)

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at

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