ATHENS – A provocative Greek TV sports commentator who allegedly called black basketball player Thanasis Antetokounmpo – brother of NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo – an “ape” is being investigated by a Greek prosecutor and could face charges of violating anti-racism laws and other counts.
Takis Tsoukalas made the comments on Nov. 9 after Antetokounmpo’s Panathinaikos beat Olympiakos 93-80 in the Euroleague.
“They have an ape. That Antetokounmpo guy is an ape — that’s what I’m telling you,” he said. “What is that clown doing? Isn’t he ashamed of himself? He’s making his brother look bad.”
Tsoukalas angrily denied his criticism was racially motivated and insisted he was referring to behavior on the court.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo, the eldest brother in a basketball family that includes another brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo, drew support from Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, who wore a national team shirt over his clothes with Antetokounmpo on the back.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, who plays for the Milwaukee Bucks and has soared to stardom, described Tsoukala’s comments as racist.
“I have lost sleep over the last few days over this negative-racist incident which occurred recently,” Giannis wrote on Twitter. “If this happens to Thanasis, who with pride and a permanent smile represents the Greek national team and Panathinaikos, I can’t imagine what is happening to other colored people in Greece.”
Thanasis Antetokounmpo didn’t want to talk about the incident when pushed by reporters about what he thought. “I don’t have anything to tell you,” he said. “We should just love each other and stay united.” The brothers were born in Athens to Nigerian parents.
People found responsible for racial incitement can be jailed for up to three years, under a law approved by Parliament in 2014.
Supreme Court prosecutor Xeni Dimitriou ordered the preliminary investigation into the rant, which will be conducted by the Athens Prosecutor’s office.
Greece’s TV and radio regulator, the National Broadcasting Council (ESR), submitted a report on the incident to the Supreme Court prosecutor’s office.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)