I hate soccer. Did not grow up with it. Don’t watch it. Don’t want to. Bores me to death. That’s just me. It takes a riot or in this case, a player getting banned for life for making a “Nazi Salute” to get my attention. It certainly got everyone’s attention when a Greek soccer player made such a arm/hand gesture recently. AEK Athens midfielder, Giorgos Katidis set fellow athletes, fans and the Twitter-sphere ablaze when he made a “Nazi salute” in celebration of a goal he scored in the Greek league. He was banned from the national team for life as a result. His coach, AEK’s German coach Ewald Lienen, said the player doesn’t have an “idea about politics.“ Ok. I can except that. Is he saying Katidis is also ignorant of world history? For his part, Katidis proclaimed ignorance on his Twitter page:
“I am not a fascist and would not have done it if I had known what it meant,” Katidis said on his Twitter account”
If this had happened on a US team, while I still think that there would have be repercussions for a player doing it, he most certainly would not have received a lifetime ban. For better or worse, we as a society are much more tolerant of words and actions that may be construed as hate speech. As a nation, the United States was formed amid a battle for free speech. Countries in Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean regions have a different “free speech” genesis. A different speech culture. They also have the first hand, on-soil experience with the Holocaust. Many have Anti-Nazi hate speech laws. Greece, the country for which Katidis played a part in that experience. Between 60k and 70k Greek Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Most sent to their death at Auschwitz. Many Greeks died resisting Fascist Italy and Nazi oppression.
One would think that Katidis would be aware of this as compared to what he claimed on his Twitter page. The Holocaust and by implication, World War II, is taught in Greece starting the 6th grade. It strains credibility that he could be part of this system and claim to not understand the implications of the Nazi salute unless he was our version of home schooled or has simply not attended any school. The lesson here? The notion of acts having consequences is universal. Giving Katidis the benefit of the rubber-band stretch benefit of the doubt, if he was ignorant as to the Nazi salute before, he has now received an expensive education that he will never forget. It would have been a cheaper lesson to pay attention in 6th grade.