Basketball star Tony Parker has apologized following a media storm over photos showing him giving a neo-Nazi salute.

Parker, point guard for the San Antonio Spurs, was called out this week by the Simon Wiesenthal Center for images and video depicting him giving the quenelle salute, considered a modern derivative on the notorious Nazi salute. The gesture is made by lowering one arm and raising the other up over the chest.

“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 in the statement.

“When l 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.”

Saturday, French soccer player Nicolas Anelka also made headlines after making the salute during an English Premier League game. Anelka said it was in tribute to his friend, French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, a notorious anti-Semite credited with coining the gesture.

Following the blowback, the SWC began highlighting  an image showing Parker standing with M’bala as both men make the salute. Over the weekend, the NBA and Spurs were tightlipped about the controversy, until today’s official apology, which was released by the San Antonio club.

Late today, Jewish groups welcomed the response, with SWC Associate Dean, Rabbi Abraham Cooper telling Algemeiner, “The Simon wiesenthal Center takes Mr. Parker at his word. 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 disassoicates himself from the ‘quenelle’ salute and everything it stands for.”

“We welcome Tony Parker’s apology in which he acknowledged learning of the dark history related to this gesture, and the painful message it can convey,” added ADL head Abe Foxman.

“Our hope is that Tony Parker’s experience and his heartfelt regret will alert others to the harm caused by this abhorrent salute which Dieudonne invented to express his deeply held anti-Jewish sentiments. We recognize that its use is not always anti-Semitic, however our concern is that French athletes and entertainers have now made the quenelle into a faddish element, which has the potential to be mimicked by other young fans and athletes around the world.”

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