Red Bull’s Blackface Video Stirs Controversy

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Red Bull is under fire for a video posted on its website featuring people in blackface. The footage, shot during a Red Bull event in Moscow where contestants launched themselves in flying machines on July 26, features a man in a President Obama mask and two others in blackface chasing a banana in front of a banner that reads “Red Bull.”

The company posted the video first to its Russian language page on July 28 and then to its English page. Red Bull has since removed the video from the site.

Vadim Shevchenko, a spokesman for Red Bull, told The Guardian that the act was not intended to be racist. He said the man in the Obama mask in the video was part of a team that also consisted of a man in a Vladimir Putin mask and another in a Xi Jinping mask. The man in the banana suit participated in another team.

“Of course it’s not an expression of racism,” Shevchenko said. “If you had been there you would understand. The situation was absolutely friendly and happy.”

Critics disagree.

Red Bull issued a statement to TIME on Friday afternoon. “The organizers of the Red Bull Flugtag in Russia regret our oversight in allowing these participants to tarnish what was otherwise an enjoyable event,” Red Bull said in the statement. “It is never our intention to give a platform which would promote an offensive message. For the future, we will take more effective measures to prevent this sort of thing happening again.”

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