NBA players have a number of go-to celebrations — chest bumps, giving daps, running around and beating one's chest in the most confrontational manner possible, etc. One of th
e most popular in recent years has been "three goggles," the practice of putting fingers up to one's eyes in the shape of, well, goggles. It's now common enough that most American fans think nothing of it.
Yet that is definitely not the case in Brazil, where the gesture is very offensive. Enough so that the NBA has asked the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat not to use it in advance of Saturday's exhibition game in Rio de Janeiro. From Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group:
Holding up the "three-sign" or the "three-goggles" in Brazil means "f--- you" or "f--- off," I was informed.
The NBA sent the Cavs and Heat a memo with a list of questionable gestures that shouldn't be used in Brazil, we're told. The last thing anybody wants is for the stands to clear immediately after a player nails a 3-pointer.
Can you imagine a player floating and waving the three-sign from one end of the court to the other? That wouldn't be good.
James Jones, the Cavaliers' 3-point marksman, says he was not made aware of the memo and knew nothing about the gesture being an insult in Brazil.
"Hey, that's why I just salute after I hit one," James said. "That's not offending anyone, right?"
Jones should be fine, but the three-goggle issue speaks to the broader problems of bringing a league with its own culture into countries that may have developed similar customs with very different meanings. Tell someone that things are "a-ok" with your fingers and you're likely to get in a fight.
However, the NBA has also played innocent host to offensive gestures from other cultures in the past. In the early '00s, Sacramento Kings and fellow Serbs Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic celebrate three-pointers with a three-fingered salute that had been used by their countrymen as a display of pride — unless, of course, you were a Muslim Croatian, in which case you saw it as a sign of oppression. The act earned some negative attention after its alternate meanings were revealed, but for the most part it continued along with few American fans thinking much of it.
Regardless, it's nice to see that the NBA is on top of the issue and doing its best to ensure that these teams don't start any international incidents. Although it does cause some consternation as to what Brazilian players like Nene and Leandro Barbosa must think every time they see a teammate throw up the goggles. That's no way to make a friend feel comfortable.
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