Everton striker Romelu Lukaku has supported Nicolas Anelka over his controversial “quenelle” goal celebration.
West Brom forward Anelka faces the prospect of a minimum five-match ban after being charged by the Football Association on Tuesday for making the gesture, which has been described by Jewish organisations as anti-Semitic.
But Lukaku, on a season’s loan from Chelsea, said that the 34-year-old should not be banned in a video interview that appeared on Everton’s website.
The club removed the video when they became aware there was an issue, stating that it had been uploaded automatically.
“He [Anelka] was my idol since I was a kid, and still is,” Lukaku told EvertonTV. “He shouldn’t be banned for that. He just supported a stand-up comedian in France, so we don’t have to make such a big deal about it.
“I hope he doesn’t get suspended because he’s a player people want to see play on the pitch.”
An FA investigation was sparked by the manner in which Anelka celebrated a goal during the 3-3 Premier League draw at West Ham on Dec. 28.
The former France international suggested that his gesture was intended to be anti-establishment rather than anti-Semitic.
He claimed he made it in support of French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala -- who has had recent performances of his shows banned by the French authorities because of concerns about racist content. M’bala M’bala also has convictions for anti-Semitic hate speech.
Supporters of the comic have accused the authorities of denying Dieudonne freedom of speech.
Everton’s director of communications Alan Myers explained that the interview with Lukaku, filmed by Sky Sports after Monday night’s 1-1 draw at West Brom, was uploaded on to the club website automatically.
He said: “It is the player's opinion. It is not the opinion held by the club. However, the player was asked the question and answered it.
“What we did as soon as we knew about it was take it down from the website immediately because the last thing we would wanted to do was cause any offence to anybody.”