Nicolas Anelka, a French soccer player for a British club, was fined $130,000 and suspended five games for performing the quenelle gesture in a game.
The British Football Association handed down its penalties on Thursday following an investigation by an independent regulatory commission, which ruled that Anelka was guilty of performing an act that was “abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper” after scoring against West Ham on Dec. 28. Anelka, a striker for the West Bromwich team, also must attend an educational program.
The punishment is suspended pending a seven-day appeals process.
Anelka, the commission determined, had not been deliberately anti-Semitic in making the gesture, nor did he intend “to express or promote anti-Semitism by his use of the quenelle.” But the panel said his breach was an aggravated one because it “included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief.”
The player said in December that he performed the quenelle as a gesture to his friend Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, the French comedian who popularized the quasi-Nazi salute. Dieudonne, who has been fined repeatedly for making anti-Semitic remarks, says the quenelle is neither anti-Semitic nor Nazi but merely anti-establishment. France’s interior minister, Manuel Valls, is among many who see the gesture as anti-Semitic.
Leaders of British Jewry, including Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, welcomed the ruling as justified and fitting.
David Delew, chief executive of the Community Security Trust, the British Jewish community’s watchdog on anti-Semitism, said in a statement, “This verdict sends a strong message to Jewish players and supporters at all levels of the game that the Football Association will act against anti-Semitic acts if they are reported.”