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National Asian Pacific American Bar Association

1612 K Street N.W., Suite 1400
Washington, DC 20006


Contact: Aleli Samson

August 20, 2008

(202) 775-9555


Washington, DC – Last week, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), the national association of Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law professors and law students, was offended by the photo of the Spanish men’s Olympics basketball team using their fingers to slant their eyes. With inadequate explanations being proffered to attempt to downplay the racial slight, NAPABA continues to find the photo insensitive to the history of many Asians and Pacific Islanders who have endured harassment and discrimination based upon their ethnicity and physical traits.

“In the United States, immigration laws unjustly restricting immigration by Asians, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act, as well as the World War II internment of Japanese Americans are examples of the kind of discrimination inflicted upon Asians and Pacific Islanders from which we should all learn,” stated Helen B. Kim, President of NAPABA. She added, “The emphasis placed by Spanish basketball players Pau Gasol and Jose Manuel Calderon on an allegedly benign—even affectionate—intent behind the photo misses the point entirely.” Gasol and Calderon are National Basketball Association (NBA) players for the Los Angeles Lakers and Toronto Raptors, respectively.

Although the photo includes four NBA players, Rudy Fernandez (Portland Trail Blazers) and Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies) in addition to P. Gasol and Calderon, the NBA has yet to comment on the photo. NAPABA hopes that the NBA will speak out against the photo soon. Condoning the mockery of physical traits prevalent in certain ethnicities contradicts the Olympic ideals of harmony and peacemaking and is divisive and un-American.

Continued silence by the NBA regarding the photo sends a specific message that the NBA does not fully support American Olympians and Olympic coaches of Asian or Pacific Islander descent, who deserve to realize their Olympic dreams free of insensitive ridicule. Included among the athletes and coaches of Chinese descent are Kevin Tan (U.S. men’s gymnastics artistic team - bronze medalist), LovieAnne Jung (U.S. women’s softball team), Natasha Kai (U.S. women’s soccer team), David Zhuang (U.S. table tennis team), Liang Chow (coach for U.S. gymnastics medalist Shawn Johnson), and Ping Lang (head coach for U.S. women’s volleyball team), among many others. Also deserving support from the NBA is Yao Ming, who plays for the Houston Rockets and is a member of the Chinese men’s Olympics basketball team. Notably, in or around 2003, Ming was the subject of similarly inappropriate, high publicity racial taunting by Shaquille O’Neal, who apologized to Ming as a result of the NBA’s demand.

NAPABA notes that other teams besides the Spanish men’s Olympics basketball team, such as the Spanish women’s Olympics basketball team, have posed for photos using their fingers to slant their eyes. These photos are equally offensive and NAPABA demands sincere apologies by their sources.


The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) is the national association of Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, law professors and law students. NAPABA represents the interests of over 40,000 attorneys and approximately 55 local Asian Pacific American bar associations. Its members represent solo practitioners, large firm lawyers, corporate counsel, legal service and non-profit attorneys, and lawyers serving at all levels of government. NAPABA continues to be a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian Pacific American communities. Through its national network of committees and affiliates, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes professional development of minorities in the legal profession.


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