LONDON (AP) — Former France striker Nicolas Anelka has been accused of undermining efforts to banish discrimination from football by celebrating a goal in a globally televised match with a racially aggravated gesture.
Anelka performed the gesture, known in France as a "quenelle" and regarded as anti-Semitic, after scoring for West Bromwich Albion against West Ham during an English Premier League game in December.
Although an independent disciplinary panel backed Anelka's insistence that he wasn't being intentionally anti-Semitic, he was still found to be racist and abusive and was handed a five-match ban a week ago.
The commission released its written reasons for the sanction on Thursday, saying the gesture was aggravated by his high profile and its negative effect on football's image.
"As for the promotion of inclusivity, equality and diversity, and in combating racism in football and society, he at least ought to have known that such conduct undermines those programs," the commission's report said.
The gesture Anelka performed involves pointing one straightened arm downward while touching the shoulder with the opposite hand. It was popularized by French comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, who has been convicted multiple times for inciting racial hatred or anti-Semitism.
In Anelka's witness statement, the 34-year-old striker said he became aware of Dieudonne in about 2000, met him once, and watched recordings of his shows. He said he made the gesture "purely to say hello to my friend."