Cleared by a disciplinary panel of performing a Nazi salute, a Premier League soccer player was still criticized for his lack of knowledge about fascism and Adolf Hitler.
Crystal Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was described by a Football Association commission as having displayed “a very considerable — one might even say lamentable — degree of ignorance about anything to do with” the Nazi regime.
The 32-year-old Hennessey, who is from Wales, had denied giving a Nazi salute because, the commission said, “he said he did not even know what one was.”
“Improbable as that may seem to those of us of an older generation, we do not reject that assertion as untrue,” it said. “All we would say (at the risk of sounding patronizing) is that Mr. Hennessey would be well advised to familiarize himself with events which continue to have great significance to those who live in a free country.”
A photograph posted on Instagram by Hennessey’s teammate at Palace, German midfielder Max Meyer, showed Hennessey with his right arm raised and his left hand under his nose. The photo was taken during a team dinner following Palace’s win over Grimsby in the FA Cup in January.
The FA charged Hennessey, saying the gesture brought the game into disrepute and was an aggravated breach of rules because it included a “reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion and/or belief.”
Hennessey argued in a hearing that he was waving and shouting to the person taking the photo — an Italian waiter — and put his hand over his mouth to make the sound carry. An independent panel came down on the side of Hennessey.
The panel said it was not challenged by witnesses in the hearing that “Mr. Hennessey does have rather a loud voice and tends to be impatient.”
Hennessey also provided screenshots and photographs of him on a soccer field, showing him with his right or left arm “raised at a similar angle (presumably to attract the attention of the defense in front of him),” the panel said.
“That someone later misinterpreted the gesture,” it said, “may illustrate the perils of social media and the need for people to be careful to avoid such a situation. It has certainly also revealed a disappointing ignorance on the part of Mr. Hennessey with important parts of our culture and history.
“But that does not amount to proof that he has committed what would otherwise be a serious breach of (the rules).”
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Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80