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San Antonio Tony Parker apologizes for quenelle hand gesture

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San Antonio Spurs star point guard Tony Parker apologized for a three-year old photograph that surfaced that showed him making an anti-Semantic hand gesture on Dec. 30.

The photograph shows Parker and Dieudonne Mlaba Mlaba (aka Diudonne) , a French comedian, making a gesture known in France as a ''quenelle,'' which critics describe as inverted Nazi salute. Parker said in a statement released through the Spurs that the photograph was taken three years ago.

Parker, who was born in Belgium but raised in France, said he didn't know at the time that ''it could be in any way offensive or harmful.'' He said he thought it was part of a comedy act and said he apologized for any misunderstanding or harm.

''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,'' Parker said.

On Monday, the NBA said it is reviewing the matter.

The Anti-Defamation League praised Parker's apology.

"We call on those who have posed with the quenelle to follow Parker's lead and stop using it. Responsible public figures should condemn those who use a gesture which was created to express anti-Semitism," it said in a statement.

However, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of The Simon Wiesenthal Center, believes Parker’s statement fell short.

"The Simon Wiesenthal Center takes Mr. Parker at his word. There is however, one more crucial step that he needs to take: a statement in French to reassure 600,000 French Jews and the multitude of his young fans in France that he disassociates himself from the quenelle salute and everything it stands for," said Cooper.

Parker is having a solid season for the Southwest-leading Spurs (24-7). He leads the team in scoring (18.0 ppg) and assists (6.0) while shooting 50.1 percent from the field.

Parker’s teammate Boris Diaw and French soccer star Nicolas Anelka have also came under fire for displaying the anti-Semantic sign. Diaw, like Parker, was photographed with Dieudonne making the gesture while Aneika used the gesture after scoring a goal in an English Premier League game on Dec. 29.

Anelka's club, West Bromich Albion, issued a statement Monday saying that Anelka has agreed not to perform the same gesture again. The English Football Association has also begun an investigation and could punish Anelka with a five-match ban.

Anelka has defended his actions, saying he was merely expressing his support for French comedian Dieudonne, who performs the gesture on stage. Dieudonne claims the salute, which involves pointing one straightened arm downward while touching that arm's shoulder with the opposite hand, is anti-establishment and not anti-Semitic.

Anti-Semitic symbols and speech are banned in France, 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.

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