Spanish basketball player Jose Calderon rejected international media accusations on Wednesday that slit-eyed gestures by his team at the Beijing Olympics were racist and said he had great respect for Asian people. Published pictures show the world champions dressed in Olympic kit standing on a basketball court marked with a Chinese dragon. All the players are pulling the skin back at the side of their eyes.
“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 Toronto Raptors team, said in a message posted on his website. “Whoever interprets something else from the photos has taken it completely the wrong way,” said Calderon.
Spanish newspapers also hit back at suggestions 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.
Racism has blighted Spanish sport in the past. Some spectators targeted Britain’s black Formula One motor racing driver Lewis Hamilton in Barcelona in February and racist chants directed at black soccer players have been a persistent problem.
From Calderon’s site:From a commenter at Gawker: “He had me at ‘oriental.'”