Slovak sportswear firm hit by hate mail for using black model in advert

Hundreds of people have sent hate mail to a Slovak sportswear company this week after it featured a black body-builder in an advert on its Facebook page, having used the same model twice last year without provoking any such reaction.

Nebbia sportswear models - Nebbia

Comments included severe racial insults with some people saying they would never shop at a company that promoted multiculturalism.

Hundreds of others have vowed to buy Nebbia clothes to show their support for the company.

EU member state Slovakia has Roma and Hungarian minorities but very few people of African origin among its 5.4 million people, and almost no migrants or refugees.

Growing racism in Slovakia mirrors the rise of right-wing and anti-immigrant movements across Europe after years of slow economic growth and the arrival of more than a million people fleeing hardship and conflict in the Middle East and Africa.

In an electoral shock last year, the far-right People's Party-Our Slovakia won seats in parliament for the first time after scoring 8 percent of the vote in a March vote.

Nebbia asked customers who had objected to the advert to contact them via an email address which translates from Slovak as "I am racist" if they wish to return their clothes for a refund.

"Nebbia is a global brand which uses sportspeople of colour for marketing purposes. We don't want people who feel racial hatred to wear our clothes," chief executive Martin Pecko said in a statement.

"I thought that racism did not exist in a developed society like ours, unfortunately we see in hundreds of reactions that it's deeply rooted in people," he said.

The brand extended a sarcastic invitation to customers affected by the appearance of the black model to return their clothes by contacting an email address with the handle, 'I am a racist,' followed by Nebbia's company domain name. 

Slovakia has set up a special police unit last week to fight extremism, terrorism, hate crimes and hate speech.

But human rights activists have criticised Slovak leaders for stirring hatred and xenophobia themselves.

Slovakia has refused to accept mandatory EU quotas for accepting refugees and Prime Minister Robert Fico said in a May 2016 interview "there is no space for Islam in Slovakia".

In January, German retailer Lidl attracted racist comment in the Czech Republic for featuring a black man in a leaflet.


© Thomson Reuters 2018 All rights reserved.