Why this story matters:
Romanians are sensitive when someone criticizes their national heroes, and tennis player Simona Halep is one of the country's sports idols. So when French humor magazine Charlie Hedbo featured her in a cartoon that played upon ethnic stereotypes, public anger was aroused.
Romanians watch her matches as eagerly and breathlessly as most people watch their national football teams in the Word Cup and each one of them triggers prime-time talk-shows on television and endless social media debates.
When French magazine Charlie Hebdo published a cartoon of her holding the Roland Garros cup -- her first grand slam win -- with an offensive caption reading "Scrap iron! Scrap iron!" it was no surprise that Romanians were angered.
The caption is a reference to Romanian Roma scrap iron peddlers who shout the words while they pass through neighborhoods. It also recalls a time during the presidency of Nikolas Sarkozy, when France paid money to repatriate Romanian Roma immigrants and when the French media often ridiculed Romanians by stereotyping them as beggars.
Details from the story:
- A cartoon published on Thursday by the famous French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has angered Romanian fans of the winner of the Roland Garros Tennis tournament, Simona Halep.
- The caption refers to Romanian Roma who often peddle scrap iron – the evident suggestion being that Halep would melt down the trophy for scrap.
- Romanian media called the so-called joke racist, while fans took to social media to demand an apology from the French magazine.
- "Greetings and shame on you for [mocking] our champion Simona Halep. When you experienced bombings, Romanians showed solidarity with you and your people. This has proved your character!” a reader said on the magazine's Facebook fan page.
- In 2010, a France 2 tv show triggered protests from Romania's Embassy in Paris after a comedian called the expression used by beggars on the streets of Paris - S'il vous plait, monsieur! - "the Romanian salute."
- Charlie Hebdo was the target of a shocking Islamist terrorist attack which left 12 dead in January 2015, after publishing a series of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammed.