Tony Parker, Nicolas Anelka in trouble for making controversial ‘quenelle’ gesture
San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker and Premier Leaguer striker Nicolas Anelka — both natives of France — have found themselves in hot water for making a controversial gesture that many perceive to be anti-Semitic. Anelka made the gesture, known as the “quenelle” salute, after scoring a goal on Saturday. A photo of Parker making the gesture alongside French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala surfaced over the weekend.
Some people believe the gesture is an inversion of the Nazi salute that has been made popular by Dieudonne. Parker, who said the photo of him and the comedian was several years old, released a statement of apology on Monday.
— tweeterman (@martin76130) December 28, 2013
“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,” Parker said, via ESPN.com. “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.”
Anelka, on the other hand, defended himself in a series of tweets that have been translated by ESPN FC.
“(The) meaning of quenelle: anti-system,” Anelka wrote. “I do not know what the word ‘religion’ has to do with this story! This is a dedication to Dieudonné. With regard to the ministers who give their own interpretations of my quenelle, they are the ones that create confusion and controversy without knowing what it really means, this gesture.
“I ask people not to be duped by the media. And of course, I am neither racist nor anti-Semitic and I fully assume (stand by) my gesture.”
Anti-Semitic speech and symbols are outlawed in France, and Dieudonne has been fined for such speech and actions in the past. After Anelka made the “quenelle” salute on Saturday, France’s interior minister Manuel Valls said that he is seeking to ban Dieudonne from being able to perform in public.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of a Jewish organization called Simon Wiesenthal Center, believes Parker should do more than just apologize.
“The Simon Wiesenthal Center takes Mr. Parker at his word,” Cooper said. “There is however, one more crucial step that he needs to take: a statement in French to reassure 600,000 French Jews and the multitude of his young fans in France that he disassociates himself from the quenelle salute and everything it stands for.”
At least Parker apologized. If the gesture really is some sort of Nazi-related symbol, Anelka should do the same.