SAN ANTONIO (AFP) - NBA star Tony Parker apologised on Monday for making a gesture with anti-Semitic overtones in a photograph taken three years ago, which became an issue after French footballer Nicolas Anelka made the same gesture on Sunday.
"Since I have been made aware of the seriousness of this gesture, I will certainly never repeat the gesture and sincerely apologise for any misunderstanding or harm relating to my actions," Parker said in a statement.
West Bromwich Albion striker Anelka made the gesture known as a "quenelle" on Saturday during a 3-3 English Premier League draw at West Ham United.
Controversy erupted in the wake of the move, which is made with a straightened right arm extended downwards and the left arm tapping the chest, and it enveloped Parker when an old photo of him surfaced making the gesture alongside the French comedian who is associated with it, Dieudonne.
While Dieudonne says the gesture is only meant as anti-establishment, many interpret it as a Nazi-style salute with an anti-Semitic message.
Parker says he had no idea such interpretations were associated with the gesture when he made it three years ago.
"While this gesture has been part of French culture for many years, it was not until recently that I learned of the very negative concerns associated with it," Parker said.
"When I was photographed making that gesture three years ago, I thought it was part of a comedy act and did not know that it could be in any way offensive or harmful.
"Hopefully this incident will serve to educate others that we need to be more aware that things that may seem innocuous can actually have a history of hate and hurt." The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, said Parker needed to make a statement in French to distance himself from the gesture in the minds of young fans in his homeland.
"The Simon Wiesenthal Center takes Mr. Parker at his word," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the centre.
"There is however, one more crucial step that he needs to take: a statement in French to reassure 600,000 French Jews and the multitude of his young fans in France that he disassociates himself from the quenelle salute and everything it stands for."