San Antonio Spurs star guard Tony Parker issued a long statement apologizing for making a perceived anti-Semitic gesture in old published photographs with French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala.
On Sunday, the photos were published by media outlets in France.
A similar photo has also been published of Spur teammate and Frenchman, Boris Diaw, with the comedian/activist.
In the pictures, Parker and Diaw are seen doing what is known as the “quenelle,” which has become a symbol of anti-Semitism in that country. Parker said, in part, in his statement: “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. When l 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.”
“Since I have been made aware of the seriousness of this gesture, I will certainly never repeat the gesture and sincerely apologize for any misunderstanding or harm relating to my actions. 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.”
The league office confirmed Monday night that it is reviewing the matter.
The controversy involving Parker and Diaw comes after French soccer player Nicolas Anelka displayed the quenelle following a goal he scored Saturday for his English Premier League team, West Bromwich Albion, in a match against West Ham United. Anelka, who has a history of being involved in various controversies, later said the gesture was meant as a salute to his friend, the comedian known just as Dieudonne.
The quenelle, which is performed by holding one arm straight by one’s side while touching that arm’s shoulder with the opposite hand, has been called a reverse Nazi salute. It has been popularized by Dieudonne, who is a well-known actor, comedian and political figure in France.
Dieudonne has said the gesture is a symbol of defiance. In France, anti-Semitic symbols and speech are banned, and Dieudonne has been convicted of such speech in the past. In the wake of Anelka’s actions, France’s interior minister, Manuel Valls, has said he will seek to ban Dieudonne from performing in public over safety concerns.