Tony Parker is under scrutiny for use of a controversial gesture that some interpret as a reverse Nazi salute. Worse for Tony is the three-year old picture of he and the anti-Semitic French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala sporting the symbol known as the “quenelle”. Parker, through the Spurs, issued the following 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.”
Ignorance does not equal hate but does require contrition. Parker’s statement, made credible by a public record of strong community service and no known engagement in anti-Semitic causes, appears sincere. The most troubling aspect is his appearance with Dieudonné, who even three years ago was known for fanning Anti-Semitism. But as association alone does not make one an Anti-Semite, it does raise concerns for a public person such as Parker.
As someone very sensitive to the damage that Anti-Semitism inflicts on Jews around the world by those who actively pursue it as well as those who merely allow it, I don’t thing Parker is anti-Semitic. And am not just saying so as a committed Spurs fan. Nonetheless, actions speak louder than words and I suggest that in addition to his statement, that Tony use this unfortunate incident as an opportunity to educate himself on the Holocaust, particularly in France, as well as the dangers of Anti-Semitism in general.* Whether the quenelle is in fact a form of Nazi salute or just some innocent gesture, people display it in front of Auschwitz and other places of Holocaust remembrance. Thus, it has developed the power of hate. I hope Tony takes the next step to distance himself from both the gesture and the “comedian” as soon as possible.
*This is also an opportunity for the San Antonio’s Jewish community to reach out to Tony and begin the process of education.