Tony Parker is a French basketball player who currently plays for the San Antonio Spurs, but he has recently found himself under the spotlight not because of his basketball prowess, but because of an accidental offense off the court. After French soccer star Nicolas Anelka made an offensive gesture after scoring a goal during one of his games, an old picture of Parker from three years ago resurfaced, where the basketball player and a French comedian are depicting making the same gesture. The gesture is referred to in France as a "quenelle," which has been likened to an "inverted Nazi salute," and has faced critique because of its anti-Semitic undertones.
Parker claimed that he had no idea that the gesture was offensive, and came forward with an apology, saying, "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." He continued, "When I 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. 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." He went on to apologize for any harm or misunderstanding her caused. Meanwhile, Anelka is facing trouble at the hands of the English Football Association, which is looking into investigating the offense and possibly punishing the soccer player with a five game ban. Anelka has also apologized and stated that he will no longer make the gesture.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich chimed in on the issue, saying that he felt bad for Parker in the wake of the controversy. Popovich made a statement, where he went on to say, "“I talked with Tony. I felt bad for him. Tony doesn’t have an anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim or anti-Christian bone in his body. That gesture was made three years ago and at that time he thought it meant something totally different. Which it did, to him. It’s morphed into something else over time. But it’s a tribute to his maturity and his leadership to understand it has morphed, as he found out, into something pretty hateful. He realized he needed to say something, that’s it not appropriate. There’s enough bigotry and racism and hatred in the world already. That thing has been taken too far. When he was informed of that and understood it, he was very quick to denounce it and understand what he had to do. So I was proud of him."
A French interior minister said that an investigation is being made into the comedian in the photograph with Parker. The comedian has been in trouble previously on counts of breaking hate speech laws in France, and is renown as an anti-Semite.
Image courtesy of Tony Parker's official Twitter.