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Greek Refugee Coordinator Fired for Calling Antetokounmpo “Monkey”

July 26, 2020

A refugee education coordinator at a Greek camp north of Athens – a professor – was fired fast by Education Minister Niki Kerameus over a tweet in which he called NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo a “monkey,” in a vicious post.

Konstantinos Kalemis almost immediately erased his twitter account after his post, said Kathimerini, but the damage had all been done. In ordering his dismissal, Kerameus said, “We unequivocally condemn the posts of racist and highly offensive content by the professor in question.”

She added that, “Such behavior has no place in our education system,” although it wasn't said at which university he taught or if there were any further reprimands or other punitive actions.

Antetokounmpo is from a Nigerian family and got citizenship after his basketball skills were discovered but before that had to sell goods on the street until he became famous and was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks and became the NBA's best player.

The tweet came after the showing in the United States of the first episode of a documentary on Antetokounmpo by the sports site Bleacher Report, outlining his hardships in Greece where a prejudiced segment of society vilifies him.

The issue was raised by Radical Left YRIZA lawmaker and former education minister Nikos Filis during a Parliament debate on an education bill, prompting Kerameus to order an immediate investigation, said Kathimerini.

Antetokounmpo was born and raised in Athens to Nigerian immigrants but did not obtain a Greek passport until before leaving for the US for the 2013 NBA draft. He said it was was tough “being Black in a country of white people,” the documentary showed.

Earlier in June, a mural of Antetokounmpo- was vandalized with his face scratched out and Nazi insignia added.

The graffiti artwork is in the neighborhood of Palaio Faliro and was defaced, with a swastika and the Nazi SS logo painted on his arm and while no one claimed responsibility, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn has slurred him before.

The painting was done via Athens’ Pictures and Dreams initiative with the original artwork is available at EuroHoops, reported the site The Spun, noting that in 2017 a mural of him  painted on a basketball court in the neighborhood of Sepolia where he grew up was also vandalized and defaced.

The damage was undone and this spring some more inspiring messages added to it. Earlier this month, in wake of the death of George Floyd, the quote “We can’t breathe” and #BlackLivesMatter were added to the court.

In 2013, when he was still a raw talent and chosen by the Bucks in the NBA draft, Antetokounmpo was targeted by Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos who during a TV interview asked: “If you give a chimpanzee in the zoo a banana and a flag, is he Greek?"

When he was picked, Antetokounmpo – who speaks fluent Greek – crossed himself in the Greek Orthodox fashion and waved a Greek flag while hugging his family members during the event at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn.

Then-Premier and the New Democracy leader at the time, Antonis Samaras, said he felt "great emotion" meeting Antetokounmpo and his parents.

"I thank you for honoring our national colors," he said. "I hope you drive them crazy with your slam-dunks … all of Greece is so excited for you,” he added, although critics said without basketball Antetokounmpo wouldn’t have gotten citizenship.

In the film, Antetokounmpo discusses the difficulty of growing up in Greece, “It was tough … Being Black in a country of white people. There's going to be times where you feel like you're not who you are … I was born here. I've never been to Nigeria … I went to Greek school … Until I was 18, I never left the country, so Greece was all I knew.”

Antetokounmpo added, “You go to a lot neighborhoods, and you face a lot of negativity, racism,” BR reported.

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