A French Soccer Star Made An Inverted Nazi Salute And The Responses Have Been Even Worse

Nicolas Anelka’s use of the quenelle, an arm gesture that resembles a reverse Nazi salute, has ignited anger, indifference, and a slew of copycats.

1. Updated: 5:16 p.m. ET

2. Popular French soccer player Nicolas Anelka sparked controversy this weekend after he made the quenelle, an arm gesture that resembles a reverse Nazi salute, to celebrate a goal during a English Premier League soccer game in London on Saturday.

The gesture was invented and popularized by Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, a French comedian who is openly anti-Zionist and has been accused of anti-Semitism. Dieudonné insists the salute is an anti-establishment expression. Critics says its origins and use have been overtly anti-Semitic.

In response to the controversy, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls has renewed calls to ban public appearances by Dieudonné, who has long been controversial. The English Football Association (FA), meanwhile, is investigating whether the act was indeed offensive, which would lead to Anelka’s suspension under FA rules. Anelka is a striker with West Bromwich.

On Monday, the soccer club released a statement saying it was conducting its own investigation into the incident, and would cooperate with the FA. In the meantime, Anelka remains eligible to play, and has promised to never make the gesture again.

“The Club fully acknowledges that Nicolas’ goal celebration has caused offense in some quarters and has asked Nicolas not to perform the gesture again,” the West Bromich statement said. “Nicolas immediately agreed to adhere to this request.”

The incident has since morphed far beyond soccer. Condemnation from across the political spectrum in France and beyond has been swift. But among the French public, reaction to whether Anekla’s act was indeed anti-Semitic has been mixed.

6. Videos of the incident uploaded to YouTube have been viewed by thousands.

Tony Parker later on Monday apologized for making the salute, saying that he did not know that the gesture could be “in any way offensive or harmful.”

On Monday Dec. 30, Parker issued a formal apology, saying that he did not know that the gesture could be “in any way offensive or harmful.”

While many in France condemned the gesture, others were more accepting. An online poll by Le Point, a French news magazine, found that 77% of readers did not find Anelka’s action offensive. A Tumblr mocking Anelka’s anti-establishment rhetoric, “Anelka against the system,” sprung up in the wake of the controversy.

18. One popular post, “Anelka against McDonalds,” mocks Anelka’s appearance in an ad for Quick, a Belgian-owned company that is McDonalds’ top rival in France.

19. “Anelka against his car door.”

20. “Anekla against Nike.”

If found to be in breach of FA rules, Anelka could face a five-game suspension.

Correction: This post incorrectly referred to the English Premier League as the British Premiere League.

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