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In Mexico, a commercial featuring an American soccer star is causing offense and laughs. Landon Donovan is the all-time leading scorer for the U.S. men's soccer team. And in the ad he appears dressed as a caricature of a Mexican campesino.

NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from Mexico City.

JASON BEAUBIEN: The first thing to note about this story is that U.S. soccer star Landon Donovan is very well-known in Mexico. And many Mexicans hate him. They hate Donovan the way Boston Red Sox fans hate New York Yankees star Derek Jeter. They hate him because he scored several key goals against the Mexican national team. And then there was a time in 2004 when he urinated on the field in Guadalajara. Mexicans have never forgiven him for that, and they boo ferociously whenever he plays here.

Despite his terrible public image, Donovan has been cast in an ad campaign for a new lottery in Mexico. In a gigantic sombrero, a multicolored poncho and a huge fake mustache, Donovan is seen scooting under the border fence into Mexico. He tries to tiptoe past a dozing Mexican border guard.

(Soundbite of advertisement)

Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken) Where is Landon Donovan?

BEAUBIEN: The premise of the ad is that Donovan is sneaking into Mexico because it's easier to win the lottery south of the border.

(Soundbite of advertisement)

Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified Man #3: (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: The guard steals Donovan's lottery ticket and then chases him back across the desert with a billy club. The GanaGol lottery is being launched by the Mexican TV giant Televisa. Televisa's communications department didn't respond to multiple requests for an interview about the campaign.

(Soundbite of advertisement)

Unidentified Man #4: (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: The ad has been the talk of talk radio in Mexico City with most callers tearing into Donovan as an arrogant little gringo.

Mr. SERGIO SARMIENTO (Host, Radio Red): Most people, I'd say 80 percent of the people who called were very negative about it, and they thought it was insulting.

BEAUBIEN: Sergio Sarmiento hosts a morning show on Radio Red.

Mr. SARMIENTO: People thought that he was making fun of Mexicans, that he was making fun of especially Mexican migratory workers in the U.S.

BEAUBIEN: Last year, Burger King was forced to apologize and pull a global ad campaign for its Texican Whopper after it caused an uproar in Mexico. The campaign featured a short, squat lucha libre wrestler wearing a Mexican flag as a poncho alongside a tall, thin Texas cowboy.

(Soundbite of Burger King commercial)

Unidentified Man #5: The taste of Texas with a little spicy Mexican. To understand it, you must try it.

BEAUBIEN: The campaign was supposed to show how well Texas and Mexican cuisine blend in the Texican Whopper. Mexican officials, however, demanded the ads be withdrawn.

Online, people here have been criticizing the new ad for the GanaGol lottery, asking if Donovan will next do a commercial in China in a Fu Manchu mustache or a South African spot in a loincloth.

But Luis Gomez, who teaches sociology at the Autonomous National University of Mexico, says Donovan's costume is so over-the-top that it's funny. Gomez says, in Mexico, Donovan represents the great rivalry between these two countries.

Professor LUIS GOMEZ (Sociology, Autonomous National University of Mexico): (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: So when you dress him up as a Mexican, it's ridiculous, Gomez says. It's not offensive. It's ridiculous. It appears comic. Unlike Burger King, GanaGol has shown no signs that it's going to take the controversial ad off the air.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Mexico City.

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