Israel’s top basketball team has fined and suspended its captain after he called a rival player a Nazi and repeatedly wished him cancer, according to international reports.
Guy Pnini explained to local media that he lashed out at the blonde European player from a rival Israeli team during a match earlier this week, after that player physically and verbally taunted him.
“You piece of garbage, bastard, German Nazi … cancer in your head, your father should die,” Haaretz translates Pnini as saying to Jonathan Skjoldebrand of Hapoel Tel Aviv.
Skjoldebrand did not respond, but he looked in shock on camera. He told the team after the game, and yesterday morning Hapoel filed its complaint.
“At first I thought I didn’t hear well, but he simply repeated himself over and over,” Skjoldebrand said. “I didn’t want to answer him and make a big deal about it during the game, but it was humiliating and disrespectful. That’s how the [Maccabi Tel Aviv] captain talks?”
The Swedish-Israeli said the press had hounded Hapoel Tel Aviv for a month, and then came Pnini. “A member of the Israeli national team calls me a Nazi? And he hopes my father and I have brain cancer? It’s very disappointing,” he said.
In a videotaped apology, Pnini broke into tears, saying his slur had offended his relatives because most of his extended family perished in the Holocaust.
“I would like to apologize from the bottom of my heart for the terrible things I said during the match. I apologize to Jonathan and his family, to my club Maccabi Tel Aviv, to all sports fans and to anyone who might have been offended by what I said,” he told the cameras, according to Ynetnews.
He reportedly continued:
“In addition, I would like to express my sincere apology to my family, which survived the Holocaust. I feel that I have failed the field of basketball, the club, the audience, and all the people I care about – especially myself.
“As a person who should set an example to young people and youth, and maintain the values I was raised on at home and at the club, I am ashamed of myself and of the way I acted. I will respect any decision made by the club and do anything to atone for the mistake I made.”
A statement on the Maccabi Tel Aviv team website Monday said Pnini was stripped of his captaincy for the rest of the season, banned from playing until further notice, and made to pay about $26,000 to charity.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.