Romelu Lukaku has told Everton’s web site that Nicolas Anelka should not be suspended for his use of a quenelle in December, though good luck finding the evidence. The Toffees quickly removed video of their Chelsea loanee’s defense, with the club’s director of communications going public to distance Everton from their young Belgian’s comments.
Those comments were made in a video posted to the club’s website, with the 20-year-old Belgian making the widely held mistake of classifying Anelka friend Dieudonné, inventor of the quenelle, as merely a comedian. Now a political figure who has been repeatedly convicted of anti-Semitism France, the man Anelka was emulating has transcended his comedic past.
“[Anelka’s] been my idol since I was a kid,” Lukaku told EvertonFC.com (as reported by The Guardian). “He still is.
“I think he shouldn’t be banned for that. He was supporting a stand-up comedian in France. We don’t have to make such a big deal about it. He’s an adult. I hope he doesn’t get suspended because he’s a player people want to see play on the pitch.”
There are enough problems with Lukaku’s statement to make a sentence-by-sentence critique. After all, who’s paying to see Nicolas Anelka play, at this point? If Anelka sits for five-plus games, nobody’s going to turn their backs on West Brom.
But that’s irrelevant. The biggest problem with Lukaku’s view is the attempt to dissociate the quenelle from its controversy. Although some have argued the gesture carries on anti-establishment sentiment, it’s more-widely known for its anti-Semitic intent, with the sign commonly evoked outside synagogues and other Jewish sites. Nobody tangentially familiar with its place in French culture can honestly separate a quenelle from that connotation, making Anelka’s defense (that he was only honoring his friend) laughable. Whether he intended any anti-Semitism, he should have known the gesture was inappropriate.
Lukaku’s willingness to defend Anelka forced Everton to quickly distance itself from their striker, pulling video his interview while clarifying the player’s thoughts did not reflect the club’s.
“It is the player’s opinion and not the opinion held by the football club,” according to Alan Myers, Everton’s director of communications. “We moved quickly to remove any interview that may have been offensive to anyone.”
Why the video ever went up in the first place may be something Everton’s pursuing. More broadly, Lukaku’s words (and the response to them) provide a couple of lessons. While nobody would begrudge somebody’s right to defend another’s acts, there are potential implications, like your employer failing to support your views.
And if you are going to defend Anelka’s act, at least put Dieudonné in the right context. While he was once a comedian, there’s little about him that’s funny anymore – particularly as it concerns his quenelle.