Spain's 'Slant-Eye' Team Photo Stirs Ire

Ad photo "divisive" but unlikely to damage Madrid's bid to host 2016 Games.

ByABC News
September 30, 2008, 1:33 PM

Aug. 12, 2008— -- A pre-Olympics "slant-eye" pose by the Spanish men's basketball team could leave the gold medal contenders with a black eye as they compete in Beijing.

An advertisement for the Spanish Basketball Federation that appeared in the Spanish daily sports newspaper Marca featured Spain's 15 national team members in uniform pulling back the skin on their eyelids, with smiles on their faces. The team photo was taken at a center court bearing a dragon logo.

It's a racially pejorative pose not often associated with goodwill in the United States and many other countries, where a similar gesture is more likely to be seen on a school playground than coming from Olympic statesman.

"It's something that I haven't seen since I was a kid," said Sarah Smith, a spokesman for the Organization of Chinese Americans in Washington, D.C. "I can't speak for what is considered funny in Spain. I don't know if it has the same impact that it would here. It's clearly racist, and not even in a jovial way."

Smith said she would expect more from a group of Olympians, particularly when many of them have played professionally in the United States.

"This is coming from grown men who are supposed to be representing their nation," Smith said.

The Chinese-American organization also issued a statement from deputy director George Wu, calling the photo "disturbing" and "divisive."

"It is unfortunate that this type of imagery would rear its head during something that is supposed to be a time of world unity," Wu said.

Attempts by ABC News to get a comment from Marca, the Madrid-based newspaper that published the ad, were unsuccessful. Madrid is one of the four finalist cities to host the 2016 games -- facing off against Chicago, Tokyo and Rio De Janiero.

As the controversial photo makes the rounds on the Internet, speculation has begun that the gesture many consider racially insensitive toward the Asian host country -- and anyone of Eastern Asian descent -- could jeopardize the Madrid 2016 bid.