SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker apologized Monday for a newly surfaced photograph that shows him making the same gesture with anti-Semitic connotations that French footballer Nicolas Anelka displayed while celebrating a goal this weekend, creating an uproar in their home country.
The photograph shows Parker and a French comedian making a gesture known in France as a “quenelle,” which critics describe as inverted Nazi salute. Parker said in a statement released through the Spurs that the photograph was taken three years ago.
Parker, who was born in Belgium but raised in France, said he didn’t know at the time that “it could be in any way offensive or harmful.” He said he thought it was part of a comedy act and said he apologized for any misunderstanding or harm.
“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.
The Simon Weisenthal Center on Monday revised its list of top 10 anti-Semitic slurs to include the picture of Parker and a call for the guard to apologize.
The photo surfaced on social media after Anelka made the same gesture celebrating a goal in a Premier League game Saturday, causing an outcry in France.
Anelka’s club, West Bromwich Albion, issued a statement Monday saying that Anelka has agreed not to perform the same gesture again. The English Football Association has also begun an investigation and could punish Anelka with a five-match ban.
Anelka has defended his actions, saying he was merely expressing his support for French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, who performs the gesture on stage. Dieudonne claims the salute, which involves pointing one straightened arm downward while touching that arm’s shoulder with the opposite hand, is anti-establishment and not anti-Semitic.
The photograph of Parker also shows him posing with Dieudonne.
Parker did not speak with reporters after practice Monday. He said in his statement that he would never repeat the gesture again.
“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 said.
The ADL welcomed the basketball star’s apology, stating, “Our hope is that Tony Parker’s experience and his heartfelt regret will alert others to the harm caused by this abhorrent salute which Dieudonne invented to express his deeply held anti-Jewish sentiments. We recognize that its use is not always anti-Semitic, however our concern is that French athletes and entertainers have now made the quenelle into a faddish element, which has the potential to be mimicked by other young fans and athletes around the world.
“We call on those who have posed with the quenelle to follow Parker’s lead and stop using it. Responsible public figures should condemn those who use a gesture which was created to express anti-Semitism,” the ADL’s statement read.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.