Somebody Should Have Said No!: Spanish Olympic Basketball Team Commits Major Faux Pas

Yesterday, it was reported that the Spanish Olympic basketball team had run a full-page ad in Marca, the country’s leading sports newspaper featuring a picture with the whole team using their fingers to push their eyes up in a slant.  Of course, this action was appropriately followed by some (although not nearly enough) international outrage.  Spanish officials claimed ignorance, pleaded that they meant no offense.  In fact, the Guardian says that “no one from the federation felt the ad was inappropriate, and that no offense was intended.”

Once again, I find myself faced with a story where a little voice in the back of my head is screaming, “Somebody should have said, ‘No.!’”  For people who attempt to follow the news, every day seems to be a repetition of stories in which people make stupid decisions with no regard for the ramifications of what they are doing.  I accept this.  Unfortunately a large number of people are so egocentric that they go through life as if they are staring in their own movies (or episodes of the Jerry Springer Show).  For these people, conflict invites response, and any opportunity must be acted upon either positively or negatively.  If there is a TV camera around, they are compelled to make asses of themselves because the camera, for them, only represents an opportunity to add another event to their lives, which they will attempt to do regardless of the lives of the people who are simply trying to give a viewing audience a little entertainment or the children that might be watching.  This is unfortunately just an inevitable reality.

While, as I said, I have accepted this as life, I have a harder time when there are more people involved.  I do believe that most people are really trying to live and let live for the most part in this world, and that it is these people who reign-in a lot of questionable behavior before it get out of hand.  It stands to reason, that when something is obviously wrong, the more people that are involved, the better the chance that someone will realize the problem, and say, “No.”

This was obviously not the case with the Spanish Olympic basketball team.  The more you think about it, the more problematic it is.  At the shoot, you had the whole team, the team trainers, the photographers, and whatever Spanish Olympic officials that were responsible for the team.  Already this is a lot of people, but we are asked to believe that no one in attendance even questioned to fact that they were being asked to do the Asian equivalent of putting on black-face.

Even if that were true, it appears that the picture was actually taken in China (there is a dragon embedded in the floor as a graphic in the foreground of the photo.  If this were the case, one would think that at a games that is touted as having as much security as this one has, that there would have been Olympic officials present at the shoot.  Then, there is the magazine itself.  How many people were involved in the approval process and actually placing the picture into the magazine?  I find it hard to believe that no one that was involved in this process had any idea of the implicit offensiveness that was in this photo.

Even if all of the participants involved actually were ignorant of the picture’s offensiveness, there are people employed throughout this process whose job it is to catch things like this.  Any major nation is going to have handlers and public relations people who are responsible for making sure that individual members of the team do not embarrass themselves or their country.  Any newspaper is going to employ editors who are responsible for making sure that stories and ads are not offensive.  But, beyond any of this, the Olympic officials tightly control the information and images that are being put out to the world right now.  A good example of this is the dearth of information that is supplied to ESPN.  They basically give them two seconds clips of video and still shots in an attempt to force people into watching the plethora of NBC channels involved in its production.  It is these people, the PR handlers, the editors and the Olympic PR people who I find to be most at fault in this.  It is their job to know these things, and to prevent them from happening.  You learn this right after you learn the ‘seven word you can’t say in television.’  The Olympics carries with it national issues that almost rise to (and sometime do rise to) the level of diplomacy (see Bush and Putin during the opening ceremonies). 

As I stated earlier, I’m surprised this has not been a bigger story than it is.  I guess we are just lucky that no American team did this.  I cannot even imagine the press coverage this would have gotten in that case.


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