San Antonio Spurs player Tony Parker was recently called on to apologize for making what many call a "Nazi-like" gesture.
Several newspapers in France published a picture, which was tweeted, of Parker doing the “quenelle,” a gesture that is called “the Nazi salute in reverse.”
The picture (right) was taken with French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, who invented the gesture, backstage after one of Dieudonne’s shows.
According to the New York Post, the Simon Wiesenthal Center called on Parker to apologize for the picture.
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“As a leading sports figure on both sides of the Atlantic, Parker has a special moral obligation to disassociate himself from a gesture that the government of France has identified as anti-Semitic,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Parker did apologize today, reports USA Today:
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. 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.
Parker's picture appeared one day after French soccer player Nicolas Anelka did the same gesture after scoring a goal for the West Bromwich Albion soccer team, reports The Guardian (video below).
Anelka stated on Twitter: "This gesture was just a special dedication to my comedian friend Dieudonne."
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However, Anelka's own team refuted the gesture.
“The club fully acknowledges that Nicolas’ goal celebration has caused offense in some quarters and has asked Nicolas not to perform the gesture again. Nicolas immediately agreed to adhere to this request," West Bromwich Albion said in a statement today, reports the Associated Press.
Dieudonne himself denies any anti-Semitic meaning in the gesture, which his fans have used outside Nazi concentration camps and the home of Anne Frank.
In November, the comedian was ordered to pay $38,000 for mocking the Holocaust in a song. He also made a gas chamber remark about a Jewish journalist.