Nicolas Anelka
Nicolas Anelka Reuters

French soccer player Nicolas Anelka, who plays for the British team West Bromwich Albion, has been banned from five matches for using the offensive “quenelle” hand gesture after scoring a goal.

The UK Football Association found the gesture, which is an inverted Nazi salute, to be racist. Anelka was also hit with an 80,000 pound fine, and was ordered to attend an educational program.

However, the association decided that the West Brom striker did not intend the gesture to be anti-Semitic.

He has the right to appeal the decision, and his lawyers said he may decide to do so.

West Brom announced Thursday that it is suspending Anelka. The club said in a statement that while the striker did not intend his gesture to be anti-Semitic, “the Club cannot ignore the offense that his actions have caused, particularly to the Jewish community, nor the potential damage to the Club’s reputation.”

West Brom reportedly lost sponsors following Anelka’s controversial gesture.

The “quenelle” was popularized by anti-Semitic French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, who is a friend of Anelka’s. It has been described as “nothing more than a Nazi salute in disguise.”

Anelka has vigorously denied that the gesture is racist or anti-Semitic. Dieudonne has backed him, arguing that the gesture is “the gesture of emancipation.”

Dieudonne sought to enter Britain to support Anelka, but was banned by British authorities. He responded by giving his quenelle salute to Queen Elizabeth II.