The Israeli Basketball Association on Thursday sentenced Guy Pnini of the Maccabi Tel Aviv team to 20 hours of community service, to be performed at an institution that aids Holocaust survivors, after he cursed an opponent during a game against crosstown rivals Hapoel Tel Aviv and called him a “Nazi.”
The association also slapped Pnini with a NIS 10,000 ($2,650) fine and a four-game suspension, along with an additional suspended five-game ban and NIS 20,000 fine.
Throughout the game, which took place in November, Pnini taunted Jonathan Skjöldebrand, a Swedish-Israeli player, calling him a “German Nazi,” a “son of a bitch” and “trash” — and wishing him brain cancer. At one point, Pnini inched toward Skjöldebrand and whispered, “May your father die.”
Skjöldebrand remained composed and ignored Pnini.
Thursday’s punishment was the league’s official answer to the incident, and was handed down independently of the punishment delivered by the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team. Shortly after the scandal broke out, Maccabi stripped Pnini of his captain’s title for the remainder of the season and suspended him indefinitely from the roster, also imposing a steep NIS 100,000 (roughly $26,500) fine, to be paid to a charitable organization.
The incident was picked up by courtside cameras, which enabled lip-reading experts at a sports channel to decipher Pnini’s taunts. The clip was broadcast repeatedly on Israeli television and caused a stir among basketball fans. The story also made waves in international media.
A crestfallen, tearful Pnini responded to his team’s castigation by conveying his “sincere apologies” to Skjöldebrand and his family, the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team and his fans — and to his own family and relatives, “many of whom died in the Holocaust,” he stressed.
“I apologize for my behavior,” he said. “I feel I have disappointed the league, the club, the fans and my family. I will do all that I can to make up for my mistake.”