The use of memes has been extensive during the 2014 World Cup. Their objective is usually to touch upon subjects with humor, but there’s one that got out of hand and infuriated diplomats in Colombia.
On Wednesday, Dutch actress Nicolette Van Dam posted a photoshopped image on Twitter that shows Colombian soccer players James Rodríguez and Radamel Falcao snorting a referee’s vanishing spray as if it was cocaine, with the caption 'Colombiaans muurtje' -- which translates to “Colombian Wall.”
— Diario La Segunda (@La_Segunda) June 19, 2014
The distasteful joke garnered plenty of attention on this side of the globe, especially after it became known that not only was Van Dam a celebrity in her country but she had also been named a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.
The obvious degrading stereotypes against Colombia and its connection with drug trafficking caused the South American country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs María Ángela Holguín to demand that the Dutch government and UNICEF both take measures against the actress.
“This has to go much further, it’s disrespectful to Colombia, disrespectful to the Colombian people and a youth that is full of hopes and dreams,” Holguín said, the Colombian daily El Espectador reports.
The actress removed the image and offered an apology via Twitter after the scandal reached diplomatic dimensions.
Queridos Colombianos, there was no offense intended from my side. Please accept my honest and sincere apologies. #RespectColombia
— Nicolette van Dam (@NicoletteVanDam) June 18, 2014
The apology did little to mitigate criticism, however, and on Thursday Van Dam resigned as Goodwill Ambassador for the international organization.
The actress also issued the following apology via a UNICEF statement, according to Colombian daily El Tiempo:
I would personally and sincerely like to apologize for the tweet I've sent yesterday regarding the World Championship. En route to the games and as good sports, many jokes, games and "chistes" are sent through social media, challenging the participating teams. I retweeted a picture with absolutely no harm intended at all. I honestly did not want to offend any player, cause anyone to feel uncomfortable or create disgrace in any way. I am greatly sorry for the disturbance caused for which I offer my deepest apologies.
Due to the extremely negative reactions in both social and traditional media, it is with great pain and sorrow that I have decided to resign as ambassador for UNICEF Netherlands with immediate effect. It is truly sad, I have been extremely passionate about my work for children in need since 2010.
As a mother of a 2-year old girl and in expectance of a baby in two months time; I will never stop to strive for children's rights.
Nicolette van Dam
This post was originally published on Voces by Omar Porcayo. It has been translated and slightly modified by Carolina Moreno.