Israel’s premier league basketball players visited Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial on Wednesday. The league’s managers organized the visit following an incident in a game last month in which Maccabi Tel Aviv Captain Guy Pnini called Hapoel Tel Aviv’s Jonathan Skjöldebrand a Nazi among other insults.
“Pnini’s incident was only the trigger that brought us here, to Yad Vashem. But if we continue to just focus on him, we’ve missed the point,” Maccabi Tel Aviv’s coach David Blatt told Channel 2.
The Israeli Basketball Association last week sentenced Pnini to 20 hours of community service, to be performed at an institution that aids Holocaust survivors, and slapped him 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.
Pnini had taunted 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.”
The mutterings were picked up by court side 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.”