LONDON (AP) — West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka was charged by the English Football Association on Tuesday for performing a racially aggravated gesture considered to be anti-Semitic while celebrating a Premier League goal.
The former France international, who faces a minimum five-game ban under the FA's anti-discrimination sanctions, has until 1800 GMT Thursday to respond to the charge.
The gesture, which is known in France as a "quenelle" and has been described as an "inverted Nazi salute," was performed by Anelka in the Dec. 28 game against West Ham.
It involves pointing one straightened arm downward while touching the shoulder with the opposite hand, and was popularized by a French comic whose performances are considered anti-Semitic.
Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala denies anti-Semitism claims, but he has been convicted more than a half-dozen times for inciting racial hatred or anti-Semitism over the years.
This month, Dieudonne agreed to abandon a controversial show banned in multiple French cities after angering the Paris government.
Anelka said after the West Ham game that the gesture was meant to show support for Dieudonne, and it was "anti-system" rather than anti-Semitic.
It prompted outrage from Jewish groups, and West Brom's shirt sponsor announced it won't be renewing their deal when it expires at the end of this season as a result of the controversy.
The FA was widely condemned by Jewish groups for the delay charging Anelka, who had already agreed not to perform the gesture again but has not apologized and faces a lengthy ban.
"Anelka made a gesture which was abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper," the FA alleges.