Argentinean footballer Ezequiel Lavezzi, who plays for the Chinese club Hebei China Fortune, was photographed pulling the slanted eyes pose and received backlash on social media for the “racist” gesture.
The controversy comes the same week Lavezzi was named the highest-paid football player, making more than $1 million per week, reported The Sun.
The photo of Lavezzi was taken during a Chinese Super League photo session and he has since been criticized for it on Twitter, with one user tweeting out, “I am a Chinese, I just want to say to Lavezzi get out of my country.”
This is Argentinian international Ezequiel Lavezzi, who plays his football in China. The year is 2017. pic.twitter.com/VGxsyvDVGF
— Mark Dreyer (@DreyerChina) May 12, 2017
Another commented: “This is so freaking insulting!”.
“Only Ezequiel Lavezzi and the photographer will know what they were doing or trying to achieve in taking this photograph,” a Kick if Out spokesman was quoted by The Sun.
“It was poor judgement to take part in a photo which is offensive to many and discriminatory. Greater thought should have been given to considering the consequences of such actions.”
Here are some other reactions from the Twittersphere:
@DreyerChina I am a Chinese, I just want to say to Lavezzi, get out of my country
— asokachou (@asokachou) May 13, 2017
Ezequiel Lavezzi GET OUT OF CHINA YOU DISGUSTING RACIST!!!
— 诸君北面我自西向 (@fuyihang) May 14, 2017
@DreyerChina This is so freaking insulting! Wtf
— Ruiting Zhan (@Williams_Zhan) May 13, 2017
@DreyerChina Shame on you lavezzi
— amber Liu (@iamber0120) May 13, 2017
According to the New York Times, Lavezzi has since apologized in a statement on Sunday, saying:
“We were given instructions by the official photographer and I was trying to make some interesting photos by making some funny faces, which would be used afterwards for entertainment purposes.”
“I had no intention of insulting the Chinese people and did not do it with any bad intentions. I’m very happy to be here as part of the Hebei club. I have had great time here with my team mates and it has been a great journey. Every Chinese person around me is friendly and I love my life here. I deeply apologize if this photo has offended the Chinese public and fans. I will be more careful in the future.”