LONDON — West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka called on the English Football Association on Wednesday to drop his racism charge after the leader of French Jewry insisted a goal-celebration gesture was not anti-Semitic.
The FA spent more than three weeks studying the case before deciding the gesture, which is known in France as a “quenelle” and has been described as an “inverted Nazi salute,” was a racially aggravated breach of its rules.
But the Frenchman, who faces a minimum five-game ban, insisted the FA wrongly interpreted the meaning of the quenelle.
Anelka is highlighting how Roger Cukierman, the president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, believes the FA overreacted by charging him.
On Tuesday, Anelka tweeted “nothing to add” with a link to a French interview with Cukierman insisting the striker’s actions were not anti-Semitic because they were not in front of a synagogue or a Holocaust memorial.
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Anelka said the FA should have consulted Cukierman.
Anelka has until Thursday to formally respond to the FA charge. A three-person FA independent regulatory commission will deal with the case.
English football’s latest race row has already caused West Brom’s main sponsor, property website Zoopla, to announce it will not renew its jersey deal when it expires at the end of the season.
Another two sponsors of the central England club are considering withdrawing their backing.
Jack Wolfskin, an outdoor clothing, footwear and equipment specialist, said it strongly disapproved of discriminatory gestures, and was awaiting the FA’s final judgment.
“Depending on what our partner West Brom says, which measures they take and considering our legal possibilities, we would consider ending our sponsorship as one option,” the company said in a statement.
Watch firm Holler said it was “reviewing the situation” before deciding whether to extend its contract beyond this season.
But uniform supplier Adidas, while stressing it was “wholly opposed to extremism,” said it remains committed to West Brom and will leave disciplinary cases for the club and the FA to handle.