(JTA) — England’s Football Association charged player Nicolas Anelka for performing an “abusive” gesture during a match.
On Tuesday, the F.A. charged Anelka, a French national playing for the West Bromwich Albion British soccer team, with making a “gesture which was abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper, contrary to FA Rule E3.”
The charge was aggravated because it “included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief.”
Anelka, who has continued to play during the investigation, has until the end of Thursday to respond to the charge. He could be suspended for at least five matches.
An independent three-man commission will be appointed to decide on his punishment if he accepts the charges, or hold a disciplinary hearing if he rejects them, according to the British newspaper The Guardian.
The F.A. brought in an outside expert to help decide whether charges should be brought.
In a game on Dec. 28, Anelka performed the quenelle, a gesture reminiscent of the Hitler salute that was invented by the anti-Semitic French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala. Anelka said he is not anti-Semitic and the gesture was a personal tribute to Dieudonne. He said he would not make the gesture again, but has not apologized.
Zoopla, a major sponsor of the West Bromwich Albion team, on Monday canceled a $4.93 million deal with the team over the issue. The company is co-owned by Jewish businessman Alex Chesterman.
European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor expressed satisfaction that Anelka was charged over what he called the “racist and offensive gesture” and called for “the strongest punishment possible.”
“The FA must send a very strong message that offenses made against the Jewish community should be treated in the same away as offenses against any other minority,” Kantor said in a statement.