Gregg Popovich said Tony Parker "doesn’t have an anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim or anti-Christian bone in his body." (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said this week that he felt bad for Tony Parker in the wake of a 2011 photo that surfaced of the San Antonio guard making a controversial gesture -- "the quenelle" -- with French comedian and political activist Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala.
As Dan McCarney wrote for the San Antonio Express-News, the gesture involves holding out one arm straight while touching that arm's shoulder with the opposite hand, and while M'Bala "claims it’s a show of anti-authoritarianism...a wide array of critics consider the quenelle to be anti-Semitic."
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Parker explained himself this week following calls from a Jewish human rights group for him to apologize, and now Popovich told McCarney he feels bad for Parker, adding that he's proud of his player for later denouncing the gesture and said Parker doesn't "have an anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim or anti-Christian bone in his body."
"I talked with Tony. I felt bad for him. Tony doesn’t have an anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim or anti-Christian bone in his body. That gesture was made three years ago and at that time he thought it meant something totally different. Which it did, to him. It’s morphed into something else over time. But it’s a tribute to his maturity and his leadership to understand it has morphed, as he found out, into something pretty hateful. He realized he needed to say something, that’s it not appropriate. There’s enough bigotry and racism and hatred in the world already. That thing has been taken too far. When he was informed of that and understood it, he was very quick to denounce it and understand what he had to do. So I was proud of him."
A French interior minister said last week that he intends to ban public appearances by the comedian, who has been convicted several times in France for violating hate speech laws in the country. Parker's teammate, Boris Diaw, has also been photographed making the gesture with M'Bala. Last weekend, French striker Nicolas Anelka of the English Premier League West Bromwich Albion Football Club celebrated a goal by making the gesture as well.
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