NBA star Tony Parker has apologized for his use of the “quenelle” gesture that is widely considered to be anti-Semitic and similar to a Nazi salute.
The New York Daily News reported Monday that the San Antonio Spurs guard pleaded ignorance about the meaning of gesture that described by critics as a reverse Nazi salute. The gesture was created by Dieudonne M'bala M'bala, a French comedian who has openly mocked the Holocaust and supported Iran's policy of wiping Israel off the map.
A picture from three years ago of Parker making the gesture alongside Dieudonne was posted in the French media earlier this year, but it was not until Sunday that the Simon Wiesenthal Center demanded that Parker apologize for the gesture.
That demand came a day after French soccer player Nicolas Anelka came under criticism for his use of the same gesture after scoring a goal for English Premier League soccer club West Bromwich Albion.
"While this gesture has been part of French culture for many years, it was not until recently that I learned of the very negative concerns associated with it. When l was photographed making that gesture three years ago, I thought it was part of a comedy act and did not know that it could be in any way offensive or harmful," Parker said in a statement released by the Spurs and quoted by the New York Daily News.
"Since I have been made aware of the seriousness of this gesture, I will certainly never repeat the gesture and sincerely apologize for any misunderstanding or harm relating to my actions. Hopefully this incident will serve to educate others that we need to be more aware that things that may seem innocuous can actually have a history of hate and hurt," he added.
A friend of Parker’s told the Daily News Monday that while Parker had not been aware of the meaning of the gesture until recently, he had already distanced himself from the comedian, declining to attend a performance Dieudonne had invited the French national basketball team to attend last summer.
“He didn’t want to be associated with his views,” said the friend. “Tony is one of the most decent, honest and responsible players, but he has not in any way supported hateful political positions and has kept away from this increasingly hateful rhetoric. He wants to do what’s right, and his statement reflects that accountability and a willingness to learn from his mistakes.”
Anelka, meanwhile, on Sunday insisted that he is not anti-Semitic.
"I am neither anti-Semite nor racist," he said in a series of tweets, as British soccer authorities mulled possible punishment over the incident.
Anelka argued in his tweets that the gesture was merely "anti-establishment".
"I don't know what religion has to do with it. Of course I'm not an anti-Semite or racist and (I) stand by my gesture," he claimed.