Tony Parker issues apology in wake of ‘quenelle’ controversy
Tony Parker and Boris Diaw have gotten themselves into some trouble after pictures recently surfaced of the two Spurs posing in separate photos with a French comedian named Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala, who has popularized a very controversial gesture called the “quenelle.”
Both Parker and Diaw were photographed performing this gesture alongside Dieudonne several years ago, and it has caused an understandable uproar. The “quenelle” — made by grabbing your shoulder with one hand while holding the palm of your other hand outstretched and pointing downward toward the ground — is viewed as an anti-Semitic symbol (described as a ‘reverse’ Nazi salute), and Dieudonne has been fined for inciting racial hatred and hate speech on other occasions in the past.
The comedian contends the gesture is meant as an anti-establishment or anti-authoritarian declaration, but Dieudonne and his act have been widely criticized anti-Semitic, and he has reportedly been barred from public appearances in some places.
Parker, who has been under heavy criticism since the photos surfaced and awareness of the gesture increased, issued this statement via Spurs PR on Monday afternoon:
“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.”
Attention was drawn to the Parker photos a day after French soccer player Nicolas Anelka of West Brom recently performed the gesture in a celebratory fashion after scoring a goal in a match against West Ham.
It does appear there exists a misunderstanding of the gesture’s meaning among some groups, however. This excerpt from a recent BBC News post:
Jean-Yves Camus, a French academic who studies the extreme right, told the Independent the quenelle has become a “badge of identity, especially among the young, but it is doubtful that all of them understand its true meaning”. He says Dieudonne has become the hero of a movement convinced the world is run by Washington and Tel Aviv.
“I think it’s likely to be more complex than just being associated with the far right,” says Jim Shields of Aston University, an expert on the French far right, because Dieudonne has been involved with anti-racist left-wing activists as well as far-right activists. “At the moment, the use of this gesture seems too diffuse to fit any simple right-left interpretation.”
(This review of Dieudonne’s movie ‘The Anti-Semite’ is worth a read. A screening at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival was canceled, and it’s easy to understand why. This guy is trash, and the very fact Parker and Diaw were attending his show — if they indeed were — is troubling.)
We’ll see what comes out of all of this, but it’s been a very unfortunate situation, regardless. Perhaps this can serve as a lesson that educates people to be aware of their surroundings, the meanings of their actions and who they’re associating themselves with in public.