José Calderon Begga Fohgivaness, Preeze
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José Calderon Begga Fohgivaness, Preeze

Raptors Guard José Calderon is in something of a bad spot. He and fellow members of the Spanish Olympic Men’s Basketball team posed for a full-page ad that ran in Marca, Spain’s largest newspaper, for courier company Seur. In that ad (pictured above), every team member pulls their eyes into slits. (The women’s team has an identical ad.) Get it? Cause the Olympics—sorry, Orympics—are in China!
Amazingly, none of the grown white men thought that making slanty Chinamen eyes in an Olympic ad might have been a bad idea. On an entry to his blog, caught today by Gawker, Calderon explained that the whole thing was totally okay and everyone should just chill:

I would like to share a story with you about something that happened with the Spanish National Team that someone interpreted incorrectly. It happened in the photo session where the Spanish National Team was introduced; one of our sponsors asked us to pose with a “wink” to our participation in Beijing, we made an oriental expression with our eyes. We thought it was something appropriate and that it would always be interpreted as somewhat loving. Never the less some of the European media did not see it this way.
From here I would like to declare that we have a huge respect for the East and their people, some of my best friends in Toronto are from China and one of our Spanish National Team sponsors is the Chinese brand Li Ning. Anyone who would like to interpret this differently is absolutely confused.

A representative for the Chinese clothing company Li Ning, one of the team’s other sponsors, tempered the criticism directed against the men by telling the Associated Press that “the gesture shows that the Spanish team is so humorous, relaxing and cute.” Seur, meanwhile, “has no immediate plans to withdraw the ad, which is scheduled to run on selected days until the end of the games.” And according to El Pais (via the Times), the Chinese embassy in Spain found the ad “ni racista ni ofensivo.” So everyone’s happy! Except for Chinese spectators, who booed the Spanish basketball team relentlessly at Tuesday’s Spain–China game. Can’t win ’em all, though, right?
Public domain image of the Marca ad via DigitalJournal.