Another Liverpool player Pepe Reina in race row
We sometimes forget to our peril the battles we have fought here in the UK against racism and racial stereotyping.
Most of the readers of this article will not remember seeing the type of derogatory stereotyping in cinema and TV advertising, which at the time was not only common place but won awards and acclaimed fame. For example, some 40 years ago the cigarette company Benson and Hedges commissioned the nations number one advertising company Saatchi and Saatchi to make a film for the Silk Cut brand. So prestigious was this account that mini-films with huge budgets would be made. One film in particularly paraded the British Film the Zulu’s.
‘ At the height of the Mbongo uprising a garrison of 80 were surrounded by 30,000 hostile warriors’, Queue a blackened up actor with a plumy English voice dressed as Zulu warrior extolling the virtues of the cigarette brand before threatening to put the English warriors in the ‘pot’.
Many of us thought these types of videos would be consigned to the museum of very bad taste. Not so. Today in Spain Groupama Seguros –Insurance company- are running a similar distasteful ad in a tribal scenario in which once again a blackened up ‘African king’ speaking in native tongue is presented with the -and you couldn’t make this up-Liverpool and Spanish international goalkeeper Pepe Reina- Reina in Spanish means Queen. So the joke is the African –eye rolling homosexual –King chooses his Queen, Pepe Reina, who looks to the camera for help to check his insurance.
All very funny if you live in the dark ages and you have no idea or don’t care just how offensive this is. But I’m afraid that’s Spain and much of Latin America too. Remember, it wasn’t too long ago that the former Spanish football manager Louis Aragones was outraged, and refused to pay a paltry fine for calling Thierry Henry, for no good reason, ‘ Negro de mierda’. ‘ …Black shit’. More recently the Uruguay President defended Luis Suarez , for saying, among other comments, ‘No hablo con negros’ . I don’t speak to Black people’.
Despite these shockingly disrespectful ads and comments much of Spain and most of Latin America would argue that there is no racism in their countries. Well I guess on one level if you don’t acknowledge it, you have nothing to confront. But one can only be surprised at Liverpool's Pepe Reina, who has lived in the UK for a long and is acutely aware of how his football club has been embroiled in an unnecessary and protracted race row.
OBV has contacted the company via their publicist to make an official complaint.
I guess it just goes to show just how far we have come here in the UK.
OBV force Spanish multinational to pull racist ad
(From OBV 29th Feb 2012 www.obv.org.uk)
OBV have learned that Spanish multinational insurance company, Groupama, which has a subsidiary here in the UK, has pulled one of its adverts currently showing in Spain that depicts Black people, in a jungle scenario as stupid, backward, animalistic homosexuals.
Sadly, however, the group go on to say,
“Groupama Seguros does not consider that this advert contains either offensive nor any discriminatory content.”
The advert which stars Liverpool and Spanish international goalkeeper Pepe Reina, plays on his surname Reina-which is translated to Queen in English. In the ad the blackened up chief chooses Reina, the Queen, as his partner in a lustful manner.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpmZPeZbI1Y
OBV’s Director Simon Woolley said,
“I’m shocked on so many levels. Firstly, how would the Spanish feel if the English stereotyped Spanish people as backward, stupid, and animalistic homosexuals? Secondly, what does this say about Pepe Reina? The Liverpool goalkeeper has lived and worked in the UK for nearly a decade, does he think it’s ok characterise Black people this way? Does he think his Black team mates will laugh at his joke?”
Given that Liverpool football club is trying to move forward from the Suarez affair, it is a shame that another one of their players has caused offence, by appearing in an advert that seems to come from a bygone era. Those who are old enough might remember those despicable Benson and Hedges Silk Cut Zulu ads of the 1970’s."
(Update from OBV www.obv.org.uk March 1 2012)
There has been a lot of heat generated from OBV complaining about a Spanish TV ad starring Pepe Reina. Many bloggers on national websites have been outraged that our organisation should say, ‘this demeaning portrayal of Black people in Africa is not acceptable’. Many comments have been very abusive. But few writers have taken a step back and tried to objectively unpick and understand what is being played out in regards to this ad and what it means in Spain and here in the UK
Pete Jenson writing for the Independent has had a go. Whilst you might not agree with everything he says he has nonetheless written a very thoughtful piece.
'It is Alf Garnett humour, and Spanish still think it's funny
In 2004, when Spanish club Getafe's supporters were accused of racist abuse, their president, Angel Torres, offered to make his players black up for a game to prove the club was not racist. He was being serious.
It should be pointed out that Torres also proposed that any supporter found making racially abusive comments be banned for life. His intentions were good but, seen through the eyes of people with a different cultural and socio-political history, his idea was hideous.
Pepe Reina's advert for insurance is the kind of thing that would have been screened on British television about 20 years ago, probably while the Alf Garnett series In Sickness and In Health was airing on the other channel. Today anyone coming up with the idea at a brainstorming session would have been getting their coat before you could say "crude racial stereotype".
The question is: should the Spanish be allowed to define and redefine their own perimeters of what is and is not acceptable, taking on board the opinions and complaints of their own ethnic minorities, or do groups from outside the country's borders have a duty to tell them what is and is not acceptable?
In the advert the Liverpool goalkeeper Reina is introduced to the king of an African tribe. The person presenting him to the king says: "Great white man – Pepe Reina." Then the king says something which is translated to Reina as: "The boss says 'you Reina [meaning queen in Spanish], he Rey'" (king in Spanish). The king then says something else and when Reina asks: "And what does that mean?" the interpreter shakes his head worryingly and a spearholding tribesman puts a crown on to Reina's head and shuffles him forward towards the king – the inference being that he will have to marry the king. Reina utters the advert's catchphrase: "Me siento seguro", which translates as: "I feel secure".' The word seguro also means insurance.
Whether the ad for the multi-national insurance firm Groupama really depicts black people as "animalistic homosexuals", as Operation Black Vote suggests, is highly debatable. It's Benny Hill humour with a silly play on the fact that Reina's name means queen in Spanish. The tribal king is the fool in the story – in another of the adverts from the same series the joke is on the Spanish, with Reina sat on a coach being asked for his autograph by a fan, who turns out to be the coach driver who has left his mother at the wheel – Reina utters his "I feel secure" catchphrase as the coach veers across the road. Women drivers could take offence at that one.
Of course, women drivers have never been enslaved and persecuted, and that maybe is the part that Spanish culture still does not get. Should Reina have got it, with his years of playing in England? The behind-the-scenes shots of him filming the advert have him joking with the black actors as he struggles to say his lines without laughing. He will be as surprised as the Spanish TV audience that the commercial has caused so much outrage beyond the country's borders.'
Pete Jenson writing for the Independent
Reina leaps to defence of Suarez - December 22, 2011 - Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina believes striker Luis Suarez has been "crucified'' over his racism charge.
Anti-racism campaigners attack Pepe Reina over 'stereotyped' African tribe advert