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Why Nicolas Anelka was wrong before and continues to be wrong now

Jan 22, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

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So this is Nicolas Anelka’s defense? His lame, ongoing efforts to defend those controversial actions from last month essentially boil down to this:

He is neither anti-semitic nor racist – he just publicly honors those who might be.

Seriously? That’s what he wants to go with?

Let’s take the West Brom man at his word. Let’s assume for a moment that Anelka truly harbors no anti-Semitic views whatsoever. Let’s take Anelka’s word that his recent, highly controversial celebratory gesture really was, as he continues to suggest, an effort at a benign tribute to his friend, French comedian Dieudonné.

He really wants to “honor” this guy?

Even that is a remarkably silly and thoughtless thing to do, utterly tone deaf at the very least. I suppose we can debate whether players should face sanction for silly, thoughtless acts. Either way, Anelka is currently staring at five-game ban or more if the English FA finds him guilty of making an “abusive” gesture.

A little humble admission of having done something wrong or, at very least brainless, might go a long way here.

(MORE: Anelka defends ‘quenelle’ gesture after FA charge)

We pay tribute to fallen soldiers, to fallen figures, to victims or to the truly oppressed. Sometimes athletes’ celebrations may recognize family members or – and who could ever get upset at this one? – the birth of a child. “Right on,” most of us say to any of that.

But let’s take a quick look at Dieudonné … and then ask, “why pay tribute to such an individual?”

This New York Times story from last year says the spotlight has dimmed significantly on the once-famous French comic.

Dieudonné’s career has gone off the rails. After lashing out at Jews, playing down the importance of the Holocaust in shows and interviews, and becoming politically active in the name of what he calls anti-Zionism, he has become a pariah in France.

And there was this recent piece from Esquire, one that leaves us to wonder if something even more brainless is at work here? “It may have started out as a gesture of defiance but lately it’s turned into a game,” the Esquire article says, where provocateurs look for the most public places to make the gesture.

All of this came out before Anelka’s dim and grim goal celebration on Dec. 28. The point is, everyone paying attention in France knows what this guy Dieudonné is all about. Anelka certainly does.

Anelka and other pro athletes get lots of money; they take plenty out of society. Whether they like it or not, some degree of responsibility comes with that paycheck. They don’t have to use their position for advocacy or public service (although plenty do), but the very least we can expect is that they understand exactly what they are saying or doing with highly public gestures.

Even without warming up all those old debates over “role models,” can’t we agree at very least that there is some responsibility to act in socially responsible ways?

Really, it’s worth asking if the guy thought this thing through one little bit?

Anelka may not be directly promoting or advocating anti-semitism, but how much better is it to honor a guy with a notorious association with it?

  1. talgrath - Jan 22, 2014 at 10:54 PM

    Whenever this sort of thing comes up, it serves as a stark reminder as to why so many people in Europe are concerned about the potential return of the Nazi party in Europe, it really is just at the fringes of society. Nazis in Europe are like White Supremacists in the United States, not everyone knows one, but everyone knows somebody who is or was sympathetic to the cause (whether they know it or not). Decades, or in this case centuries of bigotry don’t go away in a generation or two, stuff like this is proof of that.

  2. dfstell - Jan 23, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    I honestly think some of these footballers are just too stupid to know what they’re talking about. They’re just idiots.

    The one thing I don’t like about this is the whole notion that the gesture is “anti-establishment”. Anti-semites have been using “anti-establishment” as a euphemism for their behaviors and beliefs for a long time. I’ve never understood even the basic concepts behind anti-semitism. A group of people who values education, hard work and family values is something to hold up as an aspirational goal for the rest of us.

  3. old97 - Jan 23, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    Let’s give this clown double the benefit doubt and go with his original explanation that the quenelle is simply an “anti-establishment” gesture, meant (presumably) to stick it to The Man.

    I love this defense from professional athletes, from Anelka to Terrell Owens to Metta World Peace to whomever. Who are these bone-heads kidding? Which part of modern professional sports is not a total sell-out to The Man? These guys take millions from the biggest corporations in the world. They wear clothing, drive cars, drink vodka, etc in exchange for money. Their entire lifestyle is a capitulation to the establishment. Ask Owens, the former Ron Artest, and the others how it works out to bite the hand that feeds them.

    The hypocrisy makes me gag.

    There are examples of professional athletes who are willing to legitimately stand up to authority, who are prepared to pay the price for their positions. Muhammad Ali comes to mind first, but there are others.

    Somehow, Anelka doesn’t strike me as worthy to be included in the ranks of those willing to sacrifice for his beliefs.

    • old97 - Jan 23, 2014 at 10:49 AM

      Argh. It was supposed to have read “Let’s give this clown double the benefit of the doubt…”

      Why do I always see my grammatical errors 30 seconds after hitting the “Post” button?

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