Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum apologized for his part in an anti-Spanish players sign posted in the visitors locker room at FedEx Forum prior to a Game 1 meeting with the Memphis Grizzlies, according to ESPN.com.
Batum, a native of France, said the sign was focused only on the basketball rivalry shared between his home country and Spain, and was not meant an overarching criticism or personal shot at Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies star who was born in Spain.
"I apologize if I hurt some people," Batum said, according to ESPN.com. "I have total respect for Marc Gasol."
Batum said he has not heard from the league on the matter, and may seek out Gasol to explain that he did not set out to be offensive.
Gasol said he is not concentrating on what was written on the sign. In the visitors locker room at FedExForum in Memphis, a motivational laminated sign was seen taped to a television monitor when the media was let in before Sunday’s game.
One phrase on the sign read, "We don't lose to Spanish players."
The Grizzlies feature one Spanish player on their roster, Gasol.
Other phrases on the sign included, "Nobody can beat us eight times in one year," "Win the dog fight," "We will play as a team and outwork Memphis each and every night," "We are better when we come to play," and "Staying together through adversity,” according to The Oregonian.
The Blazers ended up losing to Memphis 100-86 in Game 1 of the series.
"It wasn't meant to be out there," Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said, according to The Oregonian. "We should have taken it down."
Stotts characterized the phrase as "lighthearted" and said the sign was meant to be motivational.
Gasol, who was born in Barcelona, Spain, said the sign isn't on his mind.
"I don't know where it comes from and I don't know what it means. I have better things to think about than what they're writing on the wall,” he said. “They've had Spanish players on their team in the past. I can think of three in the recent past."
"I don't know and I don't care,” Gasol added.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Wednesday night.
- Scooby Axson