French athletes have defended fellow players who performed the quenelle gesture, which is widely seen as anti-Semitic and echoing the Nazi salute.
Meanwhile, popular French soccer player Alexy Bosetti said a picture of him performing the gesture was merely him showing off a tattoo.
The founder of the Nice Dolphins – a French team playing American football – Jean Luc Donivar, offered the defense of sports players in a nearly 1,000-word statement concerning photos that were taken in December and which surfaced online last week of eight players performing the quenelle, which was invented by the anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala and which France’s interior minister Manuel Valls last week termed “an anti-Semitic gesture of hate.”
Nice Matin, a French local news site, reported on the Dolphins affair Monday.
Donivar said in the statement it was anachronistic to attribute anti-Semitic or pro-Nazi undertones to the quenelle — a gesture which involves placing one’s outstretched left palm on one’s right shoulder while pointing downward with one’s right arm in what many French politicians and Jewish groups believe is an inverted Nazi salute.
“Great thinkers rehash what happened 60 or 100 years ago and invent prohibitions to stay relevant but the new generation doesn’t live in the past,” Donivar wrote in the statement titled “I am furious,” which he published on the team’s website.
He added that “as a man of color, it hurts me to be accused of racism or anti-Semitism,” and that the gesture is only a fashion and a statement of disagreement with the establishment. He ended his statement with the words: “Leave me alone.”
In recent months, French media reported on dozens of individuals who performed the quenelle in front of sites connected to the murder of Jews, including in front of the Toulouse school where a Muslim extremist in 2012 killed three children and a rabbi.
In a separate incident, the French soccer player Alexy Bosetti of the OGC Nice club was seen performing a gesture reminiscent of the quenelle on Sunday during a National Cup match in Nantes, according to a report and photo published by the Brazilian news site terra.com.br.
But the player denied that he performed the gesture. He tweeted on Sunday: “I showed my tattoo and not a quenelle so there you go. Thanks. ”
France has laws against displaying Nazi symbols to cause offense, but the quenelle is seen as too vague a reference to justify prosecution. Lawmaker Meyer Habib said he will submit a bill proposing to ban the gesture, which Valls indicated does violate France’s laws against incitement.
Valls is expected to issue this week a circular to mayors of all French cities, instructing them to ban performances by Dieudonne, who has been convicted seven times for inciting hate against Jews.
Paris’ mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, said last week he welcomed Valls’ initiative, as did Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld; the Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy and the CRIF umbrella group representing French Jewish communities.
This story "French Athletes Defend 'Nazi' Quenelle Salute" was written by JTA.