The English Football Association suspended West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka for five matches and fined him £80,000 due to the controversial "quenelle" gesture he made during a December match against West Ham. The gesture has anti-Semitic and racist associations.
A five-match suspension is the minimum penalty for race-related offenses.
Anelka has insisted he was not being anti-Semitic when he made the gesture, and that he only did it to support controversial French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, one of Anelka's friends. Anelka previously asked the FA to drop the charges.
The FA agreed with Anelka on this point, stating that while the gesture has anti-Semitic connotations, Anelka did not intend to promote anti-Semitism. From the FA's report, via The Guardian:
"So far as the basis for our finding on Charge 2 is concerned, we did not find that Nicolas Anelka is an anti-semite or that he intended to express or promote anti-semitism by his use of the quenelle."
Dieudonné is a controversial figure in France, home to both the comedian and Anelka. Dieudonné claims his trademark "quenelle" gesture, which resembles an upside-down Nazi salute, is an anti-establishment protest. The French government has attempted to crack down on Dieudonné's performances, and the British government banned the comedian from entering the country in early February.
After the decision was announced, a number of prominent English football commentators criticized the FA's decision as too soft. Anelka will have the chance to appeal if he desires.
Agree with those already saying five-match ban for Anelka making an anti-Semitic gesture is too weak.
— Oliver Holt (@OllieHolt22) February 27, 2014
Not sure what is more damaging in the long run: Anelka's Quenelle or English Football Association's cowardly response to it. Frightening
— roger bennett (@rogbennett) February 27, 2014
Anelka very lucky. FA lenient & weak. He should have got more than minimum five-game ban for anti-semitic Quenelle. £80k fine irrelevant — Henry Winter (@henrywinter) February 27, 2014