The major sponsor of the West Bromwich Albion British soccer team has canceled a $4.93 million deal with the team over an anti-Semitic gesture by one if its players.
Zoopla, which is co-owned by a Jewish businessman, Alex Chesterman, had threatened to drop the company’s sponsorship if Nicolas Anelka was not dropped from the roster for Monday’s game against Everton in the Premier League. Anelka was included in the team and played for 77 minutes of the 1-1 tie before being substituted. He didn’t score his team’s goal.
Anelka, in a game on Dec. 28, performed the quenelle, a gesture reminiscent of the Hitler salute that was invented by the anti-Semitic French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala. Anelka said he is not anti-Semitic and the gesture was a personal tribute to Dieudonne. He said he would not make the gesture again, but has not apologized.
“Zoopla has been reviewing its position over the past few weeks in light of the actions of striker, Nicolas Anelka, during the match against West Ham over the Christmas period and has decided to focus its attention on other marketing activities after this season,” the company said Monday in a statement.
The company said it would meet its obligations to the team and its charities for the remainder of this season. England’s Football Association is investigating the incident, though it has been accused of foot dragging. It could hand down a decision shortly after Monday’s match.
Anelka has continued to play during the investigation. If Anelka is charged under the Football Association’s anti-racism rules, he could be suspended for at least five matches.