Management of British soccer team West Bromwich decided to play French striker Nicolas Anelka in a game against Everton on Monday night, even though they had already learned that the UK Football Association would announce on Tuesday a five-game suspension for the player for refusing to apologize for making the quenelle salute after scoring a goal in a game on December 28, the Daily Mail reported Tuesday.
The FA ruled that his salute was “abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper” and that it was “an aggravated breach in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief.”
Anelka, 34, is the first player held to account under new guidelines to combat racial discrimination and has until Thursday evening to present an appeal. The sentence would be a minimum of a five-game suspension, the Daily Mail said. The newspaper said the decision actually came down on Monday night, but the FA told team manager Pepe Mel that it would delay the announcement until Tuesday morning.
On Monday, partly Jewish-owned property website Zoopla pulled its sponsorship from the team after insisting that if Anelka play, he do so without their logo on his shirt. Zoopla was angry because of the negative publicity surrounding Anelka since making the quenelle salute, considered to be a “reverse Nazi salute” that is seen as being anti-Semitic. Zoopla is co-owned by Jewish businessman Alex Chesterman, who had first asked the team to consider benching Anelka due to the salute and his refusal to apologize.
The Daily Mail reported on Monday that West Brom team leadership discussed the situation over the weekend and determined to continue with their policy, agreed on two days after the salute – to play Anelka until the FA rules otherwise.
When confronted about the controversial quenelle, Anelka said he performed it in solidarity with its creator, French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, who has been brought to trial in France eight times for hate speech. Dieudonné also created new French words, including Shoannanas – a combination of Shoah, the Hebrew word for the Holocaust, and the French word for pineapple, designed to be as offensive as possible to Jews, without triggering tough French anti-hate speech laws. In the past month, the French government, pressured local cities to ban his new traveling show, effectively putting him out of business in France and forcing him to cancel the tour.